Top US official: Israel isn't linchpin of ME woes.
By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER
WASHINGTON – The US does not see solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a magic bullet for resolving the region’s other woes, a top White House official said Monday, pushing back against perceptions that the Obama administration had linked the conflict to other issues.“We do not believe that resolving this conflict will bring an end to all conflicts in the Middle East,” Dan Shapiro, the National Security Council’s senior director for the Middle East, told an Anti-Defamation League conference. “We do not believe it would cause Iran to end its unacceptable pursuit of nuclear weapons.”Shapiro also emphasized, to applause from the audience, that “we do not believe that this conflict endangers the lives of US soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.”Several Jewish leaders, including ADL National Director Abraham Foxman, raised concerns earlier this spring over comments and reports from the US military that had been interpreted as making this charge.More broadly, the administration has long been seen as supporting the view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a key factor in other regional disputes, with top US officials repeatedly calling for progress on peace talks to help advance efforts to curb Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.Israel does not see the two issues as connected, and is concerned thatthe longer timeline on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would onlyallow the Iranians to advance their nuclear program.Shapiro explained that the US thinks that “depriving Iran of a conflictit can exploit by arming their terrorist proxies is very much in ournational interests,” and that images broadcasting Palestinianstate-building rather than suffering “would do much to transformattitudes positively and deprive extremists of an evocative propagandatool.”AdvertisementShapiro is himself returning to the region this week as the sides are set to begin proximity talks.He noted that the US sees direct talks as the only effective means of ultimately resolving the conflict.“A solution cannot be imposed on the parties from the outside. Peace can only come from direct talks,” he said.Israel has been concerned by suggestions swirling in Washington thatthe Obama administration might impose its own peace plan on the sides.Shapiro added, however: “There could be times and contexts in which USideas can be useful, and when appropriate we are prepared to sharethem.”Foxman welcomed Shapiro’s remarks and praised the Obama administrationfor taking a more positive tone when speaking of Israel in recent days,following weeks of tension.“We welcome sincerely ... the recalibration of the tone, therestatement of the special relationship, enumerating all the issueswhich are frequently lost sight of when the rhetoric gets heated,’ saidFoxman, who had expressed criticism last month of the administration’sapproach toward Israel.