The Syrian crisis is in a frenzy, Egypt's political system is imploding, a new wave of Sunni terrorism is bloodying Iraq, post-Qaddafi Libya is collapsing into lawlessness and ruin, and Iran is edging closer to the nuclear threshold. Yet Secretary of State John Kerry goes on flogging the dead horse of the Israeli-Palestinian "peace process."
On Sunday, in the midst of his (now defunct) campaign to win support for a US military strike in Syria, Kerry met for three hours with the Palestinian Authority's Mahmoud Abbas to discuss "how to intensify" the latest round of talks between Israel and the Palestinians. Earlier that day, he met with officials from the Arab League to reinforce his "commitment" to Arab-Israeli peacemaking. Everyone agreed, said Kerry, "that a final status agreement is important in enhancing regional security and stability throughout the Middle East."
The notion that an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is key to a stable Middle East is one of those moldy myths that never seem to lose their popularity. Yet which of the conflicts now roiling the region would come to an end if Israel and the Palestinians were at peace? Syria's civil war? The bloody struggle in Egypt? The resurgence of Al Qaeda?
In a region as backward and broken as the Middle East, wrote Aaron David Miller, a former adviser to six secretaries of state, in a notable 2010 essay in Foreign Policy, "it stretches the bounds of credulity to the breaking point to argue that settling the Arab-Israeli conflict is the most critical issue." It is equally delusional to argue that a "two-state solution" is the way to settle that conflict — that the key to peace is for Israel to give up land on which the Palestinians can establish a state.