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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bush's statement on the Middle East: The glass is half full

In a well-written op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal, historian Michael Oren argues that President Bush has not retracted any of the positive elements of his 2002 doctrine:
But all the focus on the conference misses the point. Mr. Bush has not backtracked an inch from his revolutionary Middle East policy. Never before has any American president placed the onus of demonstrating a commitment to peace so emphatically on Palestinian shoulders. Though Mr. Bush insisted that Israel refrain from further settlement expansion and remove unauthorized outposts, the bulk of his demands were directed at the Palestinians.

"The Palestinian people must decide that they want a future of decency and hope," he said, "not a future of terror and death. They must match their words denouncing terror with action to combat terror."

According to Mr. Bush, the Palestinians can only achieve statehood by first stopping all attacks against Israel, freeing captured Israeli Cpl. Gilad Shalit, and ridding the Palestinian Authority of corruption. They must also detach themselves from the invidious influence of Syria and Iran: "Nothing less is acceptable."

In addition to the prerequisites stipulated for the Palestinians, Mr. Bush set unprecedented conditions for Arab participation in peace efforts. He exhorted Arab leaders to emulate "peacemakers like Anwar Sadat and King Hussein of Jordan" by ending anti-Semitic incitement in their media and dropping the fiction of Israel's non-existence. [Anti-Semitic incitement continues in the Egyptian media, although it could be argued and maybe even proven that it re-started after Sadat was murdered. CiJ] More dramatically, Mr. Bush called on those Arab governments that have yet to establish relations with Israel to recognize its right to exist and to authorize ministerial missions to the Jewish state.

Accordingly, Saudi Arabia, which has offered such recognition but only in return for a full withdrawal to the 1967 borders, will have to accept Israel prior to any territorial concessions. Mr. Bush also urged Arab states to wage an uncompromising battle against Islamic extremism and, in the case of Egypt and Jordan, to open their borders to Palestinian trade. [I had no idea that their borders were not open to 'Palestinian' trade. That's appalling! CiJ]

If the Israeli media largely overlooked the diplomatic innovations of Mr. Bush's speech, they completely missed its dynamic territorial and demographic dimensions. The president pledged to create a "contiguous" Palestinian state--code for assuring unbroken Palestinian sovereignty over most of the West Bank and possibly designating a West Bank-Gaza corridor. On the other hand, the president committed to seek a peace agreement based on "mutually agreed borders" and "current realities," which is a euphemism for Israel's retention of West Bank settlement blocks and no return to the 1967 lines.

Most momentous, however, was Mr. Bush's affirmation that "the United States will never abandon . . . the security of Israel as a Jewish state and homeland for the Jewish people." This means nothing less than the rejection of the Palestinians' immutable demand for the resettlement of millions of refugees and their descendents in Israel. America is now officially dedicated to upholding Israel's Jewish majority and preventing its transformation into a de facto Palestinian state.

Beyond these elements, the centerpiece of Mr. Bush's vision was the international conference. The Israeli press hastened to interpret this as a framework for expediting the advent of Palestinian statehood, yet it is clear that the conference is not intended to produce a state but rather to monitor the Palestinians' progress in building viable civic and democratic institutions. The goal, Mr. Bush said, will be to "help the Palestinians establish . . . a strong and lasting society" with "effective governing structures, a sound financial system, and the rule of law."
Soccer Dad takes a brief look at Oren's article and focuses on the conference:
The problem I still have is that a conference brings with it, its own pressures, especially the pressure to accomplish something. President Bush's commitment to Israel may be beyond question, but given his politically weakened state and the way the conference is likely to be portrayed there is little doubt that it will amount to little more than pressuring Israel to make concessions while getting precious little (if anything) in return.
I share Soccer Dad's fear, especially taking into account Olmert's single-digit popularity. But I'd like to go a step further. What bothers me about President Bush's speech is not so much the substance - which with Oren's gloss on it certainly looks almost fair. What bothers me is the tone and what's missing.

In 2002, President Bush was very clear that the 'Palestinians' had to choose 'new leadership' that was not 'tainted' by terrorism. This time, you have to read between the lines to see what President Bush is after. And one thing he is apparently not after is a replacement for Abu Mazen, who represents the same old-line, corrupt, cowardly, terror abetting 'Palestinian' politician that Arafat represented. Instead, Bush refers to Abu Mazen as a 'man of peace.' He is anything but a man of peace. And the 'Palestinians' still have not taken one step towards filling the prescription that Bush gave them in 2002. But instead of telling the 'Palestinians' to go back and do their homework, the President is giving them another opportunity to get to steps 2 and 3 (Israeli suspension of settlement construction homebuilding and an international conference) without them first fulfilling step 1 - fighting terrorism.

What's worse is that Oren ignores the fact that the President is going to throw money and weapons and military training at the 'Palestinians' without any assurances they will be used to fight terror (they never have been used to fight terror in the past, and in fact, they have consistently ended up in the hands of Hamas and Islamic Jihad) and without any commitment on Abu Mazen's part that yes, to fight terror he might even have to have his forces take up arms against fellow 'Palestinians' and not just fold as they did in Gaza.

Imagine, if you will, that President Bush's 2002 speech had not included a call to replace Arafat. No one would be talking about it today. It would not be a seminal event - or even a memorable event - in the Bush Presidency. And with good reason!

I also fear that when push comes to shove, the President will waive his conditions to attendance at the conference. Abu Mazen himself does not fulfill them. Neither do the Egyptians or the Jordanians, but no one doubts that they will be invited. And the Saudis never will fulfill the conditions, but you can bet that if they want to be there (which I doubt), they will be there. Weak leaders at international conferences tend to do things out of desperation. Ask Ehud Barak.

The glass is half full, but it's also half empty. Focusing only on the full part is a dangerous exercise for Israel.


At 4:09 PM, Blogger Michael said...

[I had no idea that their borders were not open to 'Palestinian' trade. That's appalling! CiJ]

Carl, I think that this is axiomatic for Arab policy; it's why the PA is completely dependent on the Israeli crossings and border checkpoints.

It's also why Israel should close those crossings, permanently, and kick out all UNRWA "officials." The PA has perfectly good borders with its "Arab brethren;" use them. They're good enough to smuggle guns (as at Rafah); they should be good enough to trade food and medicine.

As for the glass being half full or half empty, I am afraid that from the muslim viewpoint, it simply isn't big enough.

At 6:02 PM, Blogger Red Tulips said...

Michael and Carl:

From the Arab perspective, it is better that the Palis suffer, as it helps with the PR. It also foments anti-Israel hatred, again a plus.

Oren makes good points, but as long as Abbas is seen as 'moderate,' really there is no clear upside to any of this.

At 3:28 PM, Blogger BabbaZee said...

AS far as I am concerned Bush betrayed us all and is following the Baker Plan to the letter which basically calls for throwing Israel (and America) under a bus.

IMO it is already accomplished and we are just watching a pay per view freak show to "break " it to the masses.


Abbas is a moderate my ass. And GWB knows it.

GWB is also a "universalist" or what I call a whore of Gramscian Churchianity

he does not understand the scriptures.
If he did



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