Building Up the West Bank

The new President is a bit distracted these days. After all, in the spirit of bi-partisanship he tried to court GOP support for his stimulus plan. Republicans, deciding that making life miserable for the new President made for good politics -- if not helpful to the nation -- have sought to create their own insurgency, a la the Taliban that seeks to push back on the Democrats efforts. That, plus the Tom Daschle issue, has kept him from looking at the breadth of issues that are out in front of us.

While focused on rescuing our national economy, there are important issues facing the broader world. One of those issues is the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With some success seen in Iraq, the question is -- what about Israel-Palestine? We have 140, 000 troops in Iraq, but have essentially one soldier in the West Bank, a 3 star general. Tom Friedman, writing from Israel, speaks to this mission, one that has shown some success, but which could end soon, if funding isn't continued. This effort led by Lt. General Keith Dayton, has produced a group of professionally trained troops who are able to keep order and bring some sense of purpose to a chaotic area. Friedman suggests that we put money and personnel in creating institutions in the West Bank that can take control and create a viable Palestinian state. The former president spoke negatively of nation building when campaigning in 2000, though that's what we've been doing in Iraq for the past several years. He's warning us to beware of letting this effort fall through the cracks.

The Obama administration has taken an important first step in appointing George Mitchell has his envoy. Now it needs to continue support of General Dayton's efforts to build viable institutions in the West Bank. I tend to agree.


My big worry for Mideast Peace right now is the Israeli elections. It will be close. If Likud gets it, Netanyahu will be PM again and try to wipe out the Palestinians like he did in 2002. If Kamida makes (maybe in coalition with Labor) then peace has a chance, but it will still need to take hawks into the cabinet to form a government.

Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas have combined to turn the Israelis back to the rightwing, from their perspective. Of course, the Palestinians would say that the failure even of "liberal" Israeli governments to stop turning the West Bank and Gaza into giant open air prisons is turning them more and more to extremists.

It's a vicious cycle. Any peace efforts have their work cut out for them. Obama can put pressure for peace, though. But, as you say, he is distracted by the GOP trying to wreck all chance for economic recovery.

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