Peace Dividend

By Daniel Altman

If Washington's latest effort to bring the Israelis and Palestinians together fails, it may be a long time before an American president takes the initiative in the Middle East again. War and frustration have taken their toll, and the economic imperative is far from clear.

Remember when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict made front pages every day and the United States fought wars to secure oil and gas in the Middle East? Back then, the region's political problems were of primary economic importance to Americans. But now, as the prospect of energy independence dawns, to whom does the Middle East really matter?

On the surface, it sure seems like American interests are at stake. Thirteen years almost to the day after the Camp David summit failed, negotiations have started anew in Washington. A lot has changed since 2000, however.

Monthly imports of crude oil and other petroleum products from the Persian Gulf peaked at 96.7 million barrels in April 2001. This year, they've been hovering around 50 million to 60 million barrels. Natural gas imports from the Middle East are also much smaller today than they were in 2000, but they've always been dwarfed by pipeline imports from Canada. Even American imports of liquefied natural gas -- a major export for Qatar and Yemen -- come primarily from Trinidad and Tobago. And overall, imports of natural gas have been falling since 2007.

Read the full article as published in Foreign Policy

Daniel Altman is an Adjunct Associate Professor.