In his speech this week before the UN General Assembly, US President Barack Obama gave special attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

According to Obama this conflict – along with Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons – is central to peace and stability in the region. Several times during his speech he repeated this mantra.

In the opening to the central, major section of his speech, for instance, Obama declared, “While these issues [Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict] are not the cause of all the region’s problems, they have been a major source of instability for far too long, and resolving them can help serve as a foundation for a broader peace.”

Later he returned to this “linkage” theme: “Real breakthroughs on these two issues – Iran’s nuclear program, and Israeli-Palestinian peace – would have a profound and positive impact on the entire Middle East and North Africa.”

Obama is correct about Iran. It is undisputable that an Islamic Republic ruled by mullahs with nuclear weapon capability would be exceedingly destabilizing. The Islamic Republic, either directly or through its proxies, is involved in numerous conflicts in the region from Syria and various Gulf states to Iraq and Afghanistan. Tehran arms, trains and supports Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border. And according to a recent report by the pro- Hezbollah Lebanese newspaper As-Safir, it has resumed its support for Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

Obama is wrong, however, about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Arab Spring that began in Tunisia, spread to Egypt and sparked sectarian violence in Syria had absolutely nothing to do with Israel’s “occupation” of the West Bank. In each of these countries, and elsewhere, popular uprisings unfolded on the backdrop of socioeconomic inequalities and a rejection of old and corrupt autocratic regimes.

If Israel and the Palestinians settled all their disputes today, the civil war tearing Syria apart would continue to rage, the violent standoff between the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt’s military junta, and other conflicts and terrorist activity from Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan to Mali and Kenya, to name just a few, would continue.

Even if Israel managed, somehow, to reach a peace agreement with the PLO, led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, over the West Bank, Jerusalem and refugees, Israel’s conflict with the Hamascontrolled Gaza Strip, with Hezbollah forces in south Lebanon and with additional Islamist groups in Jordan, Egypt, Syria and elsewhere would continue.

That is because it is Islamist extremism is its various forms – not the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or even just Iran – that is the driving force behind the terrorism, violence and bloodshed throughout the region. And the Israeli-Palestinian conflict itself has been perpetuated by this same Islamist extremism more than any other factor.

As Israeli and Palestinian teams negotiate peace, in official PA schools and news media, in TV shows and political caricatures, Israel’s right to exist is denied, Israeli cities are given Arabic names and Jews have no history in Israel. Abbas demands the release of the most ruthless, murderous terrorists as a precondition for peace talks and proceeds to treat these despicable terrorists as Palestinian heroes.

Just this week in a meeting in New York with Jewish leaders, Abbas condemned the killings of two Israeli soldiers, Gavriel Kobi and Tomer Hazan, while asking that Israel condemn the killings of Palestinians.

But even this half-hearted condemnation, which was issued in response to a pointed question from the crowd, was not published by WAFA, the official PA news agency, as The Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh reported this week. Unfortunately, Obama – a true friend of Israel – failed to note in his speech the PA’s ongoing incitement against Israel.

Despite Obama’s claims to the contrary, solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a solution to the region’s instability. And even the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not be solved until Obama and other world leaders realize that it is Islamic extremism that is perpetuating the conflict and fueling violence throughout the Middle East and elsewhere.

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