Israel's Twin Dilemmas

Our View: Dual Tracks For U.s. Diplomacy: Mideast Peace Talks, Iranian Nukes

April 26, 2009

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has found the perfect excuse for delaying peace negotiations with the Palestinians: Tehran's ambitious pursuit of nuclear power and the threat it poses to Israel and the region's security. Mr. Netanyahu's concerns about Iran are shared by many in Washington, including President Barack Obama. But the task of ending or significantly eroding Iran's advancing nuclear capabilities shouldn't take precedence over seeking peace with the Palestinians. There's little to show that Iran can be persuaded to change course, and further neglecting the Palestinian problem would likely deepen anti-Israel sentiment across the globe.

An Iran-first plan, as reported last week by The Washington Post, would put Mr. Netanyahu in conflict with Mr. Obama, who wants to push ahead with a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian clash. It would leave Palestinians languishing under occupation and allow Mr. Netanyahu to postpone discussion on such seismic issues as the status of Jerusalem and Israel's borders. .

Israel's concerns about Iran are real and understandable. All one has to do is listen to Iranian leaders' chilling anti-Israel invective or calculate the distance between Jerusalem and Tehran for a nuclear warhead. Mr. Obama has to work simultaneously on the Iran problem and a revival of the Middle East peace talks. It shouldn't be one ahead of the other. Progress on an independent Palestine would be welcomed by Israel's moderate Arab neighbors and frustrate Iran-backed terrorists. When President Obama meets Mr. Netanyahu on May 18 at the White House, they will have to narrow the issues that divide them to bring peace and security to the region.

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