The recommendation I gave to the U.S. government just after the Kuwait war (in "What Kind of Peace?." National Interest, Spring 1991) seems worth reviving at a time of roughly similar circumstance and temptation:
Washington must seize its moment of great but transient influence; it should not - and this is almost too obvious to mention - miss this opportunity by haring off to another issue. The point bears making, for Western analysts widely agree that the postwar period provides the ideal setting to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. Henry Kissinger sees victory in the Gulf as "a historic opportunity" to deal with this issue; the usually sensible Economist goes so far as to argue that "America's main job in the post-war Middle East will be to act as honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians." Douglas Hurd, the British foreign secretary has promised a return to the Palestinian issue "with renewed vigor" once the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait is over; the French government is yet more eager for linkage. Saudi and Egyptian authorities see the Palestinian cause as the ideal vehicle to burnish their nationalist credentials; and, if past patterns hold, the U.S. government will not resist Saudi pressure. Indeed, as early as October 1990, President [George H.W.] Bush signaled some willingness to link the two issues.
But this would be a terrible error. A precipitous turn of attention from Iraq and Kuwait to the Arab-Israeli conflict would forfeit a rare chance to overhaul the politics of a key region. It would be like neglecting Germany and Japan in late 1945 to solve the Irish problem. (April 20, 2003)