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A Palestinian-Israeli peace will not solve America's woes in Iraq, of course. But Rice and Livni believe it could serve a broader strategic goal. They see the primary divide in the Middle East as being between the forces of moderation and those of extremism. The rise of Iran and its extremist clients has created a potential alliance among moderate Palestinians, Israelis and the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the gulf states. "There is a growing understanding among the Israelis, Palestinians and the moderate Arab nations that the real threat is Iran and the radicalism it supports, so it's in all of their interest to work now for a comprehensive solution," says Israel's just-departed ambassador to the U.S., Daniel Ayalon, who is now working on ideas for achieving such a peace.
In order to create this concert of moderate forces in the Middle East, Rice wants her new Israeli-Palestinian peace process to be done under the auspices of the Saudi proposals of 2002, which suggested that moderate Arab nations would establish relations with Israel as part of a two-state solution. Those countries could also serve as guarantors, custodians and funders if a peace agreement is reached.
Olmert is slightly uneasy about his Foreign Minister's new joint venture. Livni has made it known that she wants to follow in the footsteps of Israel's only other female Foreign Minister, Golda Meir, by becoming Prime Minister someday. Bush, on the other hand, has no such competitive worries about Rice. If she succeeds in creating a Middle East legacy other than the morass in Iraq, so does he.