Don’t mention the intifada

The Baker report’s brief mention of Israel didn’t get so much attention in the West, but it got much more in the Arab world.

Talking about linking Israel into a solution in Iraq might have sounded like a good, open-minded approach from an American perspective. But it is never going to look good in Arab eyes, because any American position on Israel and Palestine will always be an thousand miles away from anything popular with Arabs. So Al-quds al-arabi complains ([English](

The report focused on the need to find a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. It criticized the American administration, which has neglected this issue in the last few years. However, it did not provide acceptable solutions taking Arab and Palestinian interests into account. It did not touch on Israeli terrorist practices and the silence of the American administration.

What the report said was about as innocuous as a US government statement on Israel could get:

>The United States cannot achieve its goals in the Middle East unless it deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict and regional instability. There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts: Lebanon, Syria, and President Bush’s June 2002 commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. This commitment must include direct talks with, by, and between Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians (those who accept Israel’s right to exist), and Syria.

The problem is that the Iraq Study Group has its tactics all wrong: Iraqis and Americans will never agree over Israel, and talking about it only causes trouble. The best solution is to take the same approach as with Iran’s nuclear program: keep the issues separate, try to negotiate on each problem separately. If the US follows the ISG recommendations and talks about Israel and Iraq in the same breath, they’re hobbling themselves, making it politically much more difficult for any Iraqi groups to negotiate.

Also, note that [Dar al hayat]( ([English]( has a much more neutral comment that the report “calls for action on the Arab-Israeli conflict andt he establishment of the Palestinian state”.

Some less negative Arab press reactions to the report [here]( and [here]( And bear in mind that Israel is slightly less all-consuming within Iraq than it is for the pan-Arab media – although it is still an immensely emotive topic.

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