The Reality Of Linkage

Writers at the usual outlets are up in arms over national security adviser James Jones’ assertion yesterday that “there are a lot of things that you can do to diminish that existential threat” of Iran to Israel “by working hard towards achieving a two-state solution.”

While Jones certainly could have phrased this better and more clearly, the idea behind the policy is sound: The Palestinian issue continues to be an extremely salient issue for many in the Middle East, and the U.S.’s unquestioning support for Israeli policies a deep source of anti-American sentiment. While making progress in Israeli-Palestinian talks won’t in and of itself diminish Iran’s nuclear aspirations, it will help facilitate U.S.-led attempts to confront and contain those aspirations.

It’s quite true that hostility toward Israel in the Middle East will not simply dissipate upon the end of Israel’s occupation and the creation of a Palestinian state. Nor will anti-Americanism disappear even if the U.S. is seen as having played a major role in producing such an outcome. But I’m not aware that anyone has ever made such claims — apart from conservatives producing straw arguments against the U.S. putting “pressure” on Israel to stop doing things like bulldozing Palestinian neighborhoods to make way for new parks.

We shouldn’t be inappropriately optimistic about the prospects for changing Iran’s behavior, but neither should we simply assume that it’s hopeless. And we certainly shouldn’t credit those who insist that the behavior of the U.S. or its allies has no bearing on attempts to change the behavior of others.