THE NUMBERS GAME. Here�s some interesting polling on the Middle East from The New York Times. Fully 64 percent of the public thinks there will never "come a time when Israel and the Arab nations settle their differences and live in peace." As a general matter, I think people are way too inclined to say that things will never happen. Lots of crazy stuff happens -- in 1910 none of these countries even existed and only crazy people thought they ever would. More specifically, people tend not to realize this but just ten years ago the bulk of the Israeli right and the bulk of the Arab states rejected the idea of a two-state solution, and only over the past five years or so has that ceased to be the case. The differences between the sides are still large (obviously) but they're way narrower than they were quite recently.

The other noteworthy finding is that 58 percent of Americans say the United States has no responsibility "to try to resolve the conflict between Israel and other countries in the Middle East." I sympathize with the spirit of this approach. That said, I think this sentiment partially reflects a failure of a lot of Americans to understand the nature of our involvement with the situation. The other day I saw Atrios and The Editors comparing not writing much about the Israel-Lebanon war to not writing about events in Ethiopia. The difference is that the United States is Israel's major patron in the world and Israel is the largest recipient of our largesse. When Israel does things that our government doesn't actively try to stop, we're seen -- correctly -- as actively enabling those actions. Insofar as people would prefer to take a more indifferent attitude toward Israeli-Arab issues, we would need to do a lot more to reduce our general level of financial and diplomatic support for Israel so as to move in the direction of actual neutrality.

--Matthew Yglesias

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