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David Frum is the author of five books, including two New York Times bestsellers: THE RIGHT MAN: The Surprise Presidency of George W. Bush (2003), and co-author with Richard Perle[…]

Be careful if you get involved; it’s not as important as it’s made out to be.

Question: Should the next US President engage in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?

David Frum: If the next [US] president were to ask me for my view, I would caution that person against getting overly involved. First, I don't think it is as important as it's made out. Certainly, not important enough for the Palestinans ever to make any real compromise on the issue. If you want something badly enough, you'll make compromises even if they're kind of unpleasant.

And in 2000, we saw that the Palestinians won't on the core issues; they will not compromise. So it’s not that important to them maybe.

But it's important that presidents not do things that presidents can't do, and it's important that presidents not promise to solve problems that they can't solve. The time of a president is an extraordinarily scarce resource. And when someone comes along and says, I want you to devote 100 hours or 200 hours to problem X, that is a 100 or 200 hours that is not available for dealings with Congress over the budget, for environmental problems, for other foreign policy problems.

We saw that in the [Bill] Clinton years when the Palestinian-Israeli dispute just became a time sink for the president of the United States, and in the end, it was a failure.

President [George W.] Bush stayed away from this issue for so long, not just for ideological reasons, but above all, he was very conscious; you could just spend hours and hours of time and achieve nothing; look at what had happened to President Clinton.

So I would say that America's attitude toward it should be a much more laid back one. There may come a moment when the parties are ready for a compromise, either because the Palestinians feel defeated or because the Israelis' do. Until that, it is harder for the United States to want this peace more than the parties.


Recorded on: May 5, 2008