HIDING IN THE BUSHES
What is in all of this for the Bush administration? Akiva Eldar's column in today's Haaretz
whet my appitite on the subject. For the first two years of the term, they made every possible attempt to distance themselves from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the believe that the sides were not ready to find a way out of the circle of violence and that wanting a solution more then the sides was not a recipe for success. They had watched a hands-on President Clinton invest the full authority of the presidency in Camp David and a last minute Clinton Plan that went nowhere and was thought by some to make the situation worse.
That was then. Since the decision to invade Iraq, it has become clear that they could not only deal with Iraq without addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While it is clearly not appropriate to link the two there is still a strong connection for building credibility both in the Arab world and in Europe (especially with the British) in putting every effort forward to acting here. Thus, GWB agreed to put the White House behind the somewhat problematic Road Map and the meetings in Sharm and Aqaba two weeks ago.
This is now. They are invested. The Road Map and its steps have become "American". Condy Rice is on the way to the region later this week as Powell finishes up his current trip. The responsibility of getting the sides to act and fulfill its mandates is seen by many to be George's. Is it fair? Of course not. Are the UN and EU doing their part to help? Probably not. That doesn't matter now. Hamas and Arafat have every interest in the world to make it fail. Israel's settlers and their supoprters believe that the road map is a disaster for their interests. It seems to me that almost every scenerio is a loser for the President. For example, if it all fails and Israel feels a need to act strongly in the West Bank and Gaza, what does the US do? How can it condemn Israel for fighting Hamas, who both the President and Powell have correctly called "the enemy of peace"? If it all works and Israel starts to close more outposts and even settlements, many in the American Jewish community (and Christians on the far right) who support the settlers will be vocal and critical. And if it is somewhere in the middle, who do you pressure as you continue to get further sunk into the quicksand of Middle East politics...
And the elections of November '04 get closer. They are less then 18 months away. The American economy is still not great, despite the NASDAQ movement over the past few weeks. The questions regarding Iraq regarding unfound WMD, questionable documents and the growing risks to US forces during occupation of Iraq will only get larger. Iraq is only starting to get hard and will get harder... for a long time. Look at the Jerusalem Post editorial
attempt to put a smiley face on the situation. The domestic issues, the ones that most Americans really care about, will be brought into focus if only the Democrats can get their act together and find a somewhat worthwhile candidate. And what if, God forbid, there is another terrorist attack in the US?
In many ways, its too late to run. Bush has sold himself internationally as the guy who stays the course. He is the cowboy (in a positive sense) who doesn't back down from a challenge and fights for what (he believes) is right. But what if the sides don't want a solution. This writer does but sometimes watching the players here it seems that many don't. Yesterday, PM Sharon told the cabinet that settlers can keep building as long as they do it quietly. As I discussed yesterday, I am doubtful whether Abu Maazen can or will do what needs to be done.
On another matter, check out Martin Peretz
op-ed in today's LA Times criticizing western supporters of the Palestinian "cause". Smart stuff.