In Washington last November, meeting Tony Blair, Mr Bush said he would “spend the capital” of the US on establishing a Palestinian state. “I’d like to see it done in four years,” Mr Bush said. “I think it is possible.”
—Financial Times (FT)
All those who compile lists of George Bush’s flubs have another big one to add to their arsenal. FT reported yesterday this presidential reply to a reporter:
“So you [the reporter] said I would like to see two states before I get out of office. Not true,” he told an Arab reporter. “I’d like to see two states. And if it happens before I get out of office, I’ll be there to witness the ceremony. And if it doesn’t, we will work hard to lay that foundation so that the process becomes irreversible.”
For some strange reason, in its own reporting on the Bush-Abbas press conference the NY Times completely missed this important element of Bush’s statement (I guess the Times editors might have a few things to be distracted about).
FT notes the speculation of a Clinton era Mideast specialist on the reason for Bush’s backpedaling:
One analyst involved in former president Bill Clinton’s failed efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict said Mr Bush’s apparent indifference over timing stemmed from his belief that Mr Clinton’s over-engagement was a negative influence because he had been more determined to get into the history books than to resolve the problem.
I don’t know why the source couldn’t be attributed. From the sound of it it must be either Dennis Ross or Aaron Miller. What’s the reason for such secrecy fellas?
No matter what the reasons, Bush’s retreat is ominous. There will never be peace between Israelis and Palestinians with a U.S. president backing away from his own previous commitments as Bush has here. When he said he’d spend whatever political capital was necessary to get it done he was moving in the right direction. Apparently, just when Israeli-Palestinian relations are taking a somewhat positive turn (possibly temporarily), Bush backs off. How can we or Bush ever expect peace with such dithering?
I wonder whether Bush’s distractions with Plamegate, the disintegration of his Iraq policy, and his plummeting popularity are taking a toll. Perhaps his previously expressed willingness to stay the course regarding some of the especially complicated problems he’s indicated an interest in resolving (the Israeli-Palestinian conflict being foremost) has been irreparably harmed by scandal and other factors.
This statement too was disappointing:
Mr Bush stressed the “historic significance” of Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, congratulating both sides for their co-operation.
He said the pullout created new opportunities and put the onus on the Palestinians to act first “by confronting the threat that armed gangs pose to a genuinely democratic Palestine”. He also called on Israel not to expand its settlements in the West Bank.
Sharon is in the midst of a massive expansion of Maale Adumim outside Jerusalem and Bush has the temerity to call on Israel mildly and meekly to stop expanding settlements? He’s gotta be kidding. Not to mention that the Road Map doesn’t “put the onus” on Palestinians to “act first” in confronting Hamas. It states that cessation of settlement building is to go hand in hand with ending terrorist violence. Both of these bozos, Bush and Sharon tell the world they’re for the Road Map. But their interpretation of it changes according to their own changing political situation. This too doesn’t bode well.
And just in case you thought Bush might be engaging in a verbal misstep, Haaretz brings us this emphatic confirmation of U.S. betrayal of the Road Map:
A senior U.S. State Department official said Friday that Israeli and Palestinian obligations undertaken in the “road map” peace plan are not of equal importance.
The official, who requested to remain anonymous, said the Palestinian Authority’s commitment to fight terror is more crucial than Israel’s to freeze settlement construction and evacuate illegal settlement outposts
Sharon’s not even IN Washington and he seems to be the biggest victor here. Bush has given him all the running room he needs to continue his major settlement expansion in the West Bank. Plus, Bush has given his seal of approval to Sharon’s plan to take a long deep peacemaking slumber after completing the Gaza withdrawal. Just remember, as far as this conflict is concerned inaction equals death…of both Israelis and Palestinians.
The White House website has a transcript and video of the press conference.
Ed Marshall says
It’s all a joke anyway.
As far as I know this is the only subject in the world where I give Bush any credit at all. Say President X really wanted the situation resolved (presumably in some context resulting in two states divided roughly on the green line and with some sort of mechanism for resettling the Palestinian refugee camps back into Israel or the West Bank and Gaza). What sticks do you really have in dealing with the Israelis?
Congress controls the purse strings and if you want to see the most united, House and Senate you have ever seen, threaten to cut the cash. They will rally to cough up extra money just to spite the executive and let everyone know where they stand on THAT question. That’s exactly what they did to George the Greater.
Even if you really, really, decided you were sick of it all and retasked the Middle East Theatre group to go run the IDF out of the West Bank and Gaza and solve the thing yourself, the likely result would be most of the inhabitants of the Middle East vaporizing in thermonuclear detonations.
It’s a really remarkable conundrum but I don’t blame Bush (much). There is damn little you could do worse than go send Dennis Ross to explain the American position.
Anne from New York City says
I don’t know why Ed Marshall thinks ending the occupation would INCREASE the chances of nuclear war…if anything it would decrease the likelihood.
If you want to get involved in pressuring Congress, you’ll have to do more than blog. A couple of organizations to get involved with would be the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation (a coalition) and the Council for the National Interest:
Ed Marshall says
I didn’t mean to imply that at all.
I was running through the possible tools the U.S. has to end it and feel that in the incredibly unlikely event we were to get all pious about “the inadmisibility of aquiring territory through conquest” like we were in 1991 and run them out at gunpoint the likely reaction would be nuclear (well, maybe if not if we stopped at the green line like Gulf War I and without a doubt if we went for “regime change” like Gulf War II).