George Bush today made the ‘momentous’ announcement that he’s calling a Mideast conference for later this year including Israel, the Palestinians (that is, the ‘Abbas version’ of Palestinians–not the Hamas version) and unspecified other Arab countries (presumably Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt). My reactions: YAWN! And after yawning, I’d ask: what does he hope to accomplish? Indeed, what can he accomplish? What does he have to offer the Palestinians or Arab states?
Indeed this comment from the NY Times’ coverage indicated that Bush was more interested in scoring anti-Arab propaganda points on Israel’s behalf than in dealing with real issues:
He exhorted Israel’s Arab neighbors to open talks with Israel and to show leadership by “ending the fiction that Israel does not exist” and “stopping the incitement of hatred in their official media.”
The accompanying photo image of Bush announcing the peace conference is suitably imposing, imperial and unilateral. Instead of the smiling, eager faces of Israelis and Palestinians who will supposedly benefit from this deal, we see Bush’s icy reflected image. It’s as if he’s announcing the initiative in a mirror. And this is a suitable metaphor for U.S. Mideast policy. It is created unilaterally by people looking at themselves in the mirror rather than looking in the faces of the real people they are attempting to influence.
Bush seemed to think that a reference to Anwar Sadat would create stars in the eyes of the Saudi monarch and make him rush to join the party:
He also urged them to send cabinet-level visitors to Israel, a request directed implicitly at America’s closest Arab ally, Saudi Arabia, which has refused to do so.
“With all these steps, today’s Arab leaders can show themselves to be the equals of peacemakers like Anwar Sadat and King Hussein of Jordan,” Mr. Bush said.
What Bush neglects to remember (and he knows so little about the Middle East that there’s very little there for him TO forget) is the respective fates of Sadat and Hussein’s father, both murdered at the hands of Arab extremsts who viewed them as sellouts. Actually, given the strength of Islamism in his kingdom, the image of two bloody murdered leaders’ bodies might motivate the Saudi king a bit more than that of Sadat and Hussein signing peace treaties with Israel.
I especially liked this comment from Bush:
“This is a moment of clarity for all Palestinians. Now comes a moment of choice,” Bush said in a White House speech. “The alternatives before the Palestinian people are stark.”
Oh, I don’t know about that. If I were either a West Banker or Gazan I’d say: “what has George Bush ever done for me that I should heed his urging to see this as a “moment of clarity” or a time for a “stark” choice? Instead, I think I’ll just sit back with and enjoy this afternoon cat nap.” Remember, western powers come and go in the Mideast. How many presidents, secretaries of state or appointed peace negotiators have come and gone since 1947? They’re all gone with the wind. And who remains? The long-suffering Palestinian and Israeli people of course.
Then, after I woke up from that cat nap I’d invite George over for a leisurely cup of Arab coffee at my local cafe and tell him a thing or two…like, “come back when you’ve decided to stop telling me what I need to do and when you’re ready to tell me what you’re prepared to do to make any of my dreams come true.”
The Post quotes Shibley Telhami saying something similar:
“I don’t see how anything serious on the diplomatic front can be accomplished so long as the strategy to isolate Hamas continues,” said Telhami of the University of Maryland.
And he is right. None of us like Hamas much. But thinking you can negotiate peace with only one part of the Palestinian people would be like trying to negotiate the future of the United States after the Civil War while pretending the Confederate States (i.e. the South) didn’t exist. It simply won’t work. But hey, good luck! Maybe you’ll pick a rabbit out of your hat, George. Or perhaps a scorpion–that might be more suitable to the Middle Eastern locale.