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Op-Ed

Is Kerry Right to Put Peace First?

Shibley Telhami

As Secretary of State John Kerry continues to give much time and effort to the Palestinian-Israeli issue, with plans to convene negotiations in Washington this week, his critics have come from right and left: With all the pressing issues, why is Mr. Kerry focused on this one?

Critics miss the point: No issue is more central for Arab perceptions of the United States — even as Arabs are focused on their immediate local and national priorities.

America has little influence in the events unfolding in the Arab world, from Egypt to Syria. More centrally, Arab perceptions of Washington are less dependent on short-term American policy and more a product of deep-seated Arab mistrust that ties everything the United States does to helping Israel and controlling oil. That’s why both sides of every Arab divide — the Assad regime and its opponents, the Muslim Brotherhood and its Egyptian opponents– blame the United States for supporting the other side.

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