The U.S. struggles to make allies in the Arab world because America has values. Israel shares America’s commitment to liberal democracy, but the Arab world does not. In Israel, freedom of the press is robust; in the Arab world, it hardly exists. In Israel, the law accords minorities full civil rights; in much of the Arab world, that is not the case. The strong relationship between Israel and the United States is a natural one based on shared values. If the United States is perceived as being closer to Israel than it is to the Arabs, that is to the credit of both the U.S. and Israel.
To be an honest broker in the Middle East, the U.S. need not pretend that it has no conception of right and wrong. An effective American broker would state unambiguously that what made the U.S. great in the past was its commitment to core values of freedom, democracy and opportunity, and that those same values will guide its foreign policy in the future. Because it believes in these values, the U.S. should demand that the Palestinians do what the Jews did – treasure their ancient culture while engaging the values of the West, honor the terrible losses of their past while embracing a better future.
An honest American broker would no longer ignore blatant Palestinian myopia. Just this week, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared Jerusalem a Muslim and Christian city, insisting that there will be no peace until the Jewish occupiers depart. The Jews, he said, wish to “destroy the Al Aqsa mosque and build the alleged Jewish temple.”
In Palestinian discourse, even the Temple is “alleged.” Compare that stance to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s politically risky acknowledgement of Palestinian rights to a sovereign national homeland. The peace process is utterly dead not because of America’s values, but because of the Palestinians’. Only when American presidents of both parties insist that the Palestinians take responsibility for their future will we know that America has gotten serious about playing a constructive role in the Middle East.