Foreign Minister Eli Cohen of Israel wrote a recent article for The Wall Street Journal citing Korea as a model for Middle East peace. The Israeli diplomat stated that Middle East peace is within reach if the United States guarantees military protection to Saudi Arabia should the latter be faced with aggression from the Shiite regime in Iran, just as the United States stands ready to defend South Korea in the event of aggression from communist North Korea.

But whereas Cohen mentions Saudi Arabia, along with signatories of the Abraham Accords which established peace between Israel and the Arab states of Bahrain, Morocco, and the United Arab Emirates, no mention is made of the Palestinian issue. Yet Saudi Arabia has made clear that peace with the Jewish state is contingent upon Israel making a sincere effort to establish a Palestinian state.

Moreover, the Abraham Accords also call for a Palestinian state and are on fragile ground unless and until Israel makes a Palestinian state a priority. The problem is that Israel and strong supporters of the Jewish state (myself included) had for too long harbored the view that the Arab states cared nothing about the Palestinians and that a Palestinian state was neither here nor there in finding a comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

To be sure, the Palestinians were and are of secondary concern to the Arab states. But events and current circumstances compel us to face the reality that the Palestinians are a valid issue (and a legitimate people). The want of a Palestinian state is an impediment to peace in the Middle East.

Of course, Israel is by no means the sole impediment to peace. The Palestinians themselves have shown that they, too, aren’t ready for a two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. For instance, though international spokespersons for the Palestinians advocate a two-state solution with West Jerusalem remaining under Israeli control and East Jerusalem becoming the capital of a Palestinian state, much objection has been voiced by the Palestinians and throughout the Arab world that the U.S. embassy was moved by former President Donald Trump from Tel Aviv to West Jerusalem, indicating Israel’s very existence is as much a grievance as the lack of a Palestinian state.

It is also worth mentioning that the United States already heavily arms Saudi Arabia and that the latter would be a reliable ally in the event of Shiite aggression or any other threat. What Saudi Arabia now wants from the United States is the green light for a nuclear arms program, which is out of the question and certainly a nonstarter to negotiate peace with Israel.

But Israel cannot afford to continue its neglect of the Palestinian issue. The Biden administration is losing patience with Israel refusing to address the reality of the Palestinians. For the foreign minister of Israel to pen a lengthy article on the hope for peace in the Middle East without mention of the Palestinians indicates on Israel’s part a lack of a serious commitment to a diplomatic solution.

For the sake of the Jewish state as much as for anyone else, Israel must accept the fact that the Palestinians are there and aren’t going away — with or without a state of their own.

John O’Neill is an Allen Park freelance writer. He has a degree in history from Wayne State University.

John O'Neill
John O’Neill