There is a dispute between the Israeli government and the Obama administration over whether to deal with the Palestinian question or the emerging nuclear threat in Iran first. While both are serious threats, I believe the Obama administration is correct in focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict first.
That conflict is the longest-standing, most important issue in the region. The Palestinians remain a rallying cry for Arabs throughout the area. As long as the Palestinians don’t have their own state and so many of them live in wretched conditions, Arabs will focus on Israel as a villain, and not Iran. To be sure, many of the problems afflicting the Palestinians are self inflicted. But that does not change their martyr status in the eyes of so many.
If Israel and the US can show improvements in Palestinian living conditions as well as plausible hopes for a Palestinian state it would do a lot of good for relations with Arab countries. Israel and the US would then have more goodwill from Arab countries, which it could leverage against Iran. Many Sunni rulers would certainly love to keep Shiite, Persian Iran from acquiring outsized influence in the region. The US and Israel just need to give them cover to join a coalition against Iran.
Moreover, resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could reduce Iranian-sponsored terrorism against Israel. A Palestine with its own state and security forces, which offers economic hopes for its inhabitants, might well be less of a breeding ground for extremist groups of the sort that Iran funds. Perhaps fewer people in the Arab world would be drawn to terrorism because they won’t perceive Israel as an oppressor anymore.
A nuclear Iran is a real threat. It could cause other countries to go nuclear and add to the instability in an already unstable region. And the mere threat of a nuclear holocaust could be enough to cause many Jews to emigrate from Israel. In the face of these frightening facts, there are many Israelis, and some Americans, who believe military action will be necessary in the next few months.