Courtesy Reuters

A veteran of Middle East negotiations recently said to me: "Trying to help Israel find the way to peace is like pushing a bicycle out of the path of an approaching train while the boy riding it frantically back-pedals."

The metaphor reflects the dangers of the current situation but does not explain them. A major contributing cause is the excessively ingrown and convoluted relations between Israel and the United States. Over the last 30 years these relations have evolved to the point where Israel is more dependent on the United States than ever, and yet feels itself free to take hard-line positions at variance with American views without fear of anything worse than verbal admonition from Washington. The result is to encourage Israeli positions and actions that cannot be in the long-term interest of Israel itself, and to deprive the United States in practice of freedom of diplomatic action on issues

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  • George W. Ball, currently a senior managing director of the firm of Lehman Brothers Kuhn Loeb in New York, was Under Secretary of State from 1961 to 1966 and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in 1968. He is the author of The Discipline of Power and Diplomacy for a Crowded World.
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