Yesterday on Fox News, top neocon Bill Kristol broke through all the media noise about WikiLeaks’ release of U.S. diplomatic cables and came up with his top headline: that the U.S. should forget about Middle East peace and attack Iran.
KRISTOL: The world really did not want Iran to get the nuclear weapons and Iran’s neighbors in particular don’t want Iran to get nuclear weapons and they’d like us to act to prevent it.
They’re not worrying about Israeli settlements on the West Bank or the Arab street disliking an attack on Iran. They understand that Iranian nuclear weapons would change the balance of power in the Middle East and call them to go nuclear. It would be an incredible setback for all American efforts to check the spread of radical Islam and terror and further nuclear proliferation in Middle East and around the world. That’s the headline.
While it is true that the WikiLeaks docs reveal that Arab leaders urged the U.S. to take action against Iran’s nuclear program, it is not true that the docs show that Arabs aren’t “worrying about Israeli settlements” as Kristol claimed. In July 2009, Egyptian General Intelligence Service Chief Omar Soliman told Gen. David Petraeus that he was concerned about continued Israeli settlements:
Palestinians must believe that Abbas is capable of securing a Palestinian state, Soliman stressed. He noted recent positive developments in the West Bank, including improvements in the Palestinian security forces and the lifting of some Israeli roadblocks to facilitate commerce and movement. He expressed concern, however, that continued settlement activity, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent “radical” speech, and insufficient economic development in Palestinian areas were undermining the chances for resuming peace negotiations. Soliman added that President Mubarak may invite Nentanyahu and Abbas to Cairo if efforts to re-start negotiations became “blocked.”
Another cable from February 2010 reports that Saudi King Abdullah is also worried about Israeli settlements. “The King appreciates the President’s commitment to Middle East peace but is skeptical the U.S. can bring sufficient and sustained pressure to bear on Israel, especially regarding settlements.”
Kristol appears to be downplaying the significance of a negotiated peace deal between Israel and Palestine. But the Wonk Room’s Matt Duss notes that the cables show leaders from many Arab countries telling American officials that solving the Israel/Palestine issue is “key” to peace in the region and that “Iran exploits crises for its own advantage, making the defusing of crises like Palestine and Lebanon imperative if we are to keep Iran in check.”