The Arab Spring and Palestine

Testifying before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee in March 2010, then-CENTCOM chief Gen. David Petraeus made headlines by recognizing the continued significance of the Palestinian issue in Middle East affairs. “Insufficient progress toward a comprehensive Middle East peace,” Gen. Petraeus noted in his written statement, is one of the “cross-cutting issues that serve as major drivers of instability, inter-state tensions, and conflict” that “can serve as root causes of instability or as obstacles to security.”

Gen. Petraeus’ analysis of the conflict’s significance, which was shortly affirmed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, was quickly criticized by a number of pro-Israel conservatives, who insisted that the general had inappropriately overemphasized the importance of the conflict, and its impact on U.S. interests. In a typical response, the Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman insisted that Gen. Petraeus had “simply erred in linking the challenges faced by the US and coalition forces in the region to a solution of the Israeli-Arab conflict.” While Petraeus’ presentation was clearly informed by his recent experiences in the Middle East, his analysis of the issue’s salience was seen by some as simply politically unacceptable.

This article was originally published in Near East Quarterly.