No, Israel Isn’t the Key to All the Middle East’s Problems

February 20, 2024 | Michael Oren
About the author: Michael Oren, formerly Israel’s ambassador to the United States, a member of the Knesset, and a deputy minister for diplomacy, is the author of the forthcoming Swann’s War.

Why has President Biden decided to follow in the footsteps of so many of his predecessors, going back to Jimmy Carter, by trying to come up with a scheme to create a Palestinian state? Michael Oren points to a revealing anecdote:

Shortly after entering office, in 2009, President Barack Obama’s national security advisor, Lt. General Jim Jones, made a startling pronouncement. “If God had appeared in front of the president and said he could do one thing on the planet,” he declared, “it would be the two-state solution.” That is, not eliminate global hunger, end the civil wars then raging across Africa and parts of the Middle East, not even find the cure for cancer. No, the one goal the White House sought above all others was the creation of an independent Palestinian state which would live side-by-side in peace with Israel.

Behind this obsessive focus is a theory known in foreign-policy circles as “linkage.” Oren explains:

Linkage meant, simply, that while the Middle East was rife with violence of every stripe, the core conflict was not between Sunnis and Shiites, Iranians and Arabs, and even among the Arabs themselves, but between Israelis and Palestinians. Solve that—so the advocates of linkage held—and all the region’s other disputes would cease. And the core cause of the Israel-Palestinian conflict was not Palestinian rejectionism and terror, but rather Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem, and Gaza, and the expansion of Israeli settlements.

Forget, too, that the signing of the Abraham Accords without the creation of a Palestinian state definitively disproved linkage. That dogma, defying all logic and flying in the face of 30 years of facts, calls to mind another irrational, myth-based belief: Jew-hatred.

For what is anti-Semitism but the insistence on saddling the Jews with the responsibility for all of society’s ills, plagues, and wars? Similarly, by regarding the Israel-Palestinian conflict as the nub of all Middle Eastern violence, and the Jewish state as that conflict’s core, linkage is itself linked to the world’s oldest hatred.

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