8:17 PM, May 22, 2009 • By RACHEL ABRAMS
In the not too distant future President Obama will outline his "peace plan" for the Middle East. Perhaps as early as next month, when he travels to Cairo to address the Muslim world, he'll mention to Israel and the Arab states surrounding her how he thinks they can all work together to solve the intractable problem of Palestinian statehood. And, just as he sees himself as carrying the burden of fixing the Guantanamo "mess" left him by his predecessor, he clearly also believes--or so, at any rate, his secretary of state has indicated--that the failure of the previous administration to see to the creation of a Palestinian state is just another mess for him to clean up, and that a bit of pushing on the Israeli prime minister accompanied by some importuning of the Arab dictators and kings is a good start.
Perhaps so. Wouldn't it be a miracle? I'm wondering, though, how he will approach the equally intractable problem of Arab Jew-hatred. Anyone looking at a map of the Middle East cannot miss the fact that Israel, at 10,000 square miles, is less than one third the size of her next largest neighbor, Jordan (34,495) one seventh the size of Syria (71,498), one thirty-ninth the size of Egypt (387,000), one seventy-sixth the size of Saudi Arabia (756,985). (Okay, it's true that Lebanon--even including the part occupied by Syria--is less than half Israel's size, but that's for another day.)
It helps to have a visual:
And yet the Arab states surrounding her quake in rage and fear over her, and blame her for their own awful cruelty in forcing Palestinians in their midst to live as outsiders in horrific refugee camps, refusing to absorb them, pining for the day when they can boot them out altogether to live in their "own" state--or, as in the case of Hussein, the prior king of Jordan, solving the problem by exterminating them.
The Syrian dictator is allied with the Iranians; the Saudi "royals" rule in a compact with Wahhabi religious extremists; the dictator of Egypt lives in terror of the Muslim Brotherhood and clings to power with an ever-weakening grip, preparing his son Gamal to succeed him as if he were a king; the king of Jordan is dismissed by his neighbors as inconsequential. Are these the people--people who have spent generations teaching their own subjects to despise Jews and the Jewish state--Mr. Obama expects to engage in new diplomatic outreach to Israelis on his behalf? Are these the people he expects to take political risks on behalf of Palestinians whom they have treated with contempt for six decades? Are these the people in whose hands Mr. Obama expects Bibi Netanyahu to risk the safety and security of his own citizens?