Americans can gauge the prospects for Middle East peace through the speeches given last week at the United Nations by four leaders with an important role to play.
Whether there will be war is not just a political or strategic question. Its impact would automatically be felt on the price of oil. That in turn would affect the oil-producing states and the U.S. economy.
The Middle East leaders with key U.N. speeches were Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Each addressed the 193-member General Assembly.
Mr. Morsi, in his first U.N. speech since being elected in June, described his agenda for Egypt, which included creating a modern state, reinforcing "legitimacy" and getting rid of the "contradictions of a bygone era." He said Egypt's first issue was pursuit of an independent Palestinian state and opposition to Israeli settlements, occupation and colonization of Palestine. With respect to Egypt's treaty with Israel he stated, "We are committed to what we have signed on."
Mr. Ahmadinejad of Iran gave his eighth rambling, sometimes provocative, diatribe, which did not seem as extreme as it had been in the past. He referred to "the tragic incident of Sept. 11" and he did not deny the Holocaust, as he sometimes does. He referred to "uncivilized Zionists," as is his custom, and condemned their threats against Iran.
Mr. Netanyahu illustrated his appeal for understanding of Israel's concerns with a diagram of a bomb that resembled a Christmas-tree bulb, drawing a line across it with red marker to make his point about Israel's response to Iran's production of enriched uranium. He said that neither diplomacy nor economic sanctions has stopped Iran's quest for a nuclear bomb. He stressed that Israel "cherishes peace and seeks peace" and wanted to see "a demilitarized Palestinian state," but he made no pledge to resume talks with the Palestinian leadership.
Mr. Abbas led off with a sharp warning of "the catastrophic danger of the racist Israeli settlement of our country," citing 535 attacks "by terrorist militias of Israeli settlers" and "ethnic cleansing" in Jerusalem. He reiterated his commitment to a two-state resolution but described, correctly, the Middle East peace process as "already dying." Mr. Abbas sought U.N. nonmember-state status for Palestine, a climb-down from last year and called for peace before it was too late.
All in all, the Iranian and Israeli speeches suggested no war until possibly next year, and the Israeli and Palestinian messages suggested no movement toward agreement absent a mighty push from the United States or some force on the ground. All of that is not too bad for now.