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Blind Spot

America and the Palestinians, from Balfour to Obama

By Khaled Elgindy
9780815731559_FC

A critical political history of US-Palestinian relations

The United States has invested billions of dollars and countless diplomatic hours in the pursuit of Israeli-Palestinian peace and a two-state solution. Yet American attempts to broker an end to the conflict have repeatedly come up short. Two irreducible factors stand in the way: Israeli power and Palestinian politics.

American peacemaking efforts have been hobbled by the U.S. assumption that a credible peace settlement could be achieved without addressing Israel’s vast superiority in power or internal Palestinian politics. While there is no denying the roles played by Israelis and Palestinians in perpetuating their conflict, Washington’s distinctive “blind spot” to Palestinian politics and Israeli power has prevented it from serving as an effective peace broker. Shaped by the pressures American domestic politics and the special relationship with Israel, the blind spot also has deep historical roots, dating back to the 1917 Balfour Declaration and the British Mandate over Palestine.

The size of the blind spot has varied over the years and from one administration to another, but it is always present. Unless and until U.S. policymakers are prepared to act in ways that constrain Israeli power and acknowledge Palestinian politics, American peacemaking stands little chance of success.

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