George W. Bush: Visionary or “someone stupid”?

July 04, 2002

CONTENTS

1. "Predictions for the Middle East" (Washington Post, June 27, 2002)
2. "Post-Oslo Mideast" (By William Safire, New York Times, June 27, 2002)
3. The Economist on Bush speech (Extract)
4. Robert Fisk: I wonder why Bush doesn't let Sharon run his press office
5. "The President's proposals make peace in the Middle East impossible" (Independent, June 26, 2002)
6. "Mr Bush may be half-right, but he has broken the first rule of statesmanship" (Independent, June 26, 2002)


[Note by Tom Gross]

I attach some Arab, European, and American media reaction to President Bush's speech offering to support the creation of a new Palestinian state in return for their choosing a "leadership not compromised by terror." (The summaries below are mine.)

ARAB MEDIA

In contrast to some western media that criticized George Bush for "having joined the Likud," several Arab newspapers cautiously welcomed the speech. The pan-Arab (Saudi-owned) daily Asharq al-Awsat devoted its main editorial (June 27) to urging Arab critics not to be "over-hasty in reacting negatively" to the "vision" Bush unveiled of the Mideast's future. There were "many positive points" that "constitute a foundation which can be built on" to achieve peace in the region, it says.

In Egypt, the government-run daily Al-Ahram (June 27) echoed President Hosni Mubarak's verdict that Bush's speech was "balanced" and included "positive ideas."

EUROPEAN MEDIA

Some in the European media, on the other hand, had nothing but criticism for Bush, using the opportunity not to welcome his calling for greater freedoms for Arabs, but to attack Israel and American Jews.

Writing in the (London) Independent under the headline, "The President's proposals make peace in the Middle East impossible," columnist David Aaronovitch says (June 26, 2002):

"The speech itself was not so much White House as Little House on the Prairie ... It is not even a matter of democracy. After all, was not Arafat himself elected back in 1996, in a process overseen by, amongst others, ex-President Carter?"

"Colin Powell's original plan was to recognise a provisional Palestinian state, and to move gradually on from there. Then someone in the White House got to mess with it. Someone stupid."

Also in the Independent (June 26, 2002), the paper's chief Middle East correspondent, Robert Fisk, under the headline "I wonder why Bush doesn't let Sharon run his press office," writes:

"Put your flak jackets on, President George Bush has spoken. He wants a regime change in Palestine, just as he wants a regime change in Iraq... 'Peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership so a Palestinian state can be born,' Bush told the fearful American people... There were no Bush conditions for Israel. He did not secure ... a halt to continuing Israeli military 'incursions' how I love that word 'incursions'. Why, I wonder, doesn't Mr Bush let Ariel Sharon run the White House press bureau? Not only would it be more honest we would at least be hearing the voice of Israel at first hand but it would spare the American President the ignominy of parroting everything he is told by the Israelis."

Fisk does offer criticism of Arafat alongside that of Bush and Sharon: "Yet never before has an occupied people been led by so pathetic a person as Yasser Arafat. Nineteen years ago, this same Yasser Arafat swore to me on a hilltop above the Lebanese city of Tripoli that his 'Palestine' would be 'a democracy among the guns'. His Palestine, he told me, would be unlike any other Arab state. There would be no secret policemen, no 'regime', no cronyism, no corruption. Fast forward to the spring of 1998. I am listening to a French diplomat who has returned from Gaza. He and his delegation carried a personal letter to Arafat from President Chirac. Again and again, Arafat disregarded the letter, only interested in when the new French school in Gaza will open. The diplomats understand. One of Arafat's relatives will be the headmistress of this school. Family before nation. The Chirac letter stays unopened."

Jonathan Freedland, columnist for the (London) Guardian, writes (June 26): "This new plan of Bush's is a flight of errant, irresponsible fancy that can only fail, bringing more bloodshed and ruin to the peoples of the Middle East who are desperate for something better. But it will reverberate far beyond. It will damage the international standing of the US president and America along with it. Muslim and Arab nations will be antagonised by this plan of inaction, while chancelleries from London to Moscow will realise they are dealing with a leader who pays no lip-service to them or to basic reality. This is a foreign policy failure for George Bush... there is a leadership problem in the US and his name is George Bush."

The mass circulation British newspaper, the Sun, takes a different view. The paper's editorial (June 26) writes: "Yasser Arafat: Your time is up. Is it not now crystal clear that Arafat has failed his own people? He has fostered terrorism instead of choosing the way of peace. He has led many young people to their deaths - by encouraging them to become so-called "suicide bombers" (we prefer the term "homicide bombers"). Arafat has not improved the lot of his people; he has worsened it ... Yesterday the initial signals from Downing Street were that Tony Blair doesn't totally back Bush. Why? Blair is WRONG if he thinks peace with Israel is possible so long as Arafat remains in power. Bush is correct in making HIS demand. If it takes years to oust Arafat many lives will be lost before peace is achieved. If Arafat were to go quickly, less blood might be shed. Blair's apparent resistance to Arafat's removal suggests his grasp of the realities in Israel is less than perfect. Then again, he has to rely on the British Foreign Office for advice. He may as well just ring Arafat direct."

THE ECONOMIST

Some, such as the influential news weekly, the Economist, cannot fathom that the Bush administration may have decided it is in America's (and Europe's) strategic interests to try and encourage liberal democracy in the Middle East, and instead see the hand of Jews behind Bush's speech.

In an editorial, The Economist considered the speech a "one-sided peace vision" and writes "Most of Mr. Bush's critics will be tempted to explain this week's sharp pro-Israeli turn by reference to America's domestic politics. There is something in this. America has a well-organised Jewish lobby."

Echoing this, Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory (Washington Post, June 27) writes "the hawks [in the Republican party] are counting the Jewish votes that may fall their way in the wake of the ferocious advocacy of the Israeli cause."

While McGrory expressed her dissatisfaction over Bush's policy, she fails to condemn Arafat's terrorism that brought the Middle East to its current state. McGrory's objection to terrorism appears to be only because "the hideous and odious tactic of sending young men and women out to die and take innocents with them costs the [Palestinians] world sympathy."

AMERICA

However, a number of other U.S. commentators welcome Bush's speech. Writing in the New York Post (June 25), John Podhoretz says: "Bush yesterday proved that he is not only the best friend Israel has ever had, but the best friend the Palestinian people have ever had as well. The speech Dubya delivered outside the Oval Office was a turning point for truth-telling in the Middle East."

Optimistically, Michael Kelly (Washington Post, June 27, 2002, "Predictions for the Middle East") writes that he believes Yasser Arafat will be gone within a year in the best possible manner: not made a heroic 'martyr' by an Israeli bomb or bullet, nor sent into yet another forced exile to wreak more destruction as a heroic leader-in-exile. No, this time the tired, old, failed, disgraced little tyrant without a country will leave as the loser he is; he will be forced into retirement by his own long-suffering people."

Kelly believes that the "Palestinians will elect leaders who at least credibly promise a representative government of laws, who at least credibly promise to reject terror and murder and war as the means toward statehood."

"In a matter of only a few years, Palestine will be one of two new Arab democratic states. The other neonatal Arab democracy will be Iraq. These unthinkable developments will revolutionize the power dynamic in the Middle East, to force Arab and Islamic regimes to increasingly allow democratic reforms."

Kelly adds: "The administrations of Bill Clinton and Yitzhak Rabin knew of course that Arafat was wholly duplicitous, wholly incompetent and a delusional murderous schemer. They knew his people knew this. They knew he was lying when he pretended to want a workable peace. They knew his people knew this too. Yet, they treated him as an honest man upon whom could be built a decent peace and a decent state.

"To the Palestinians, this said that the Americans were stupid and weak. It also said that they were corrupt. As they had in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, the freedom-trumpeting Americans were happy to support tyrannies whenever it suited Washington's interests. And so they were doubly worthy of contempt."

The JINSA Report (Washington) (in a dispatch titled "The Price of Our Education") argues that the Clinton administration and supporters of a peace process based on the goodwill of Yasser Arafat have been on a very slow learning curve, but are finally getting it. JINSA writes he [Ross] "now says Arafat was never a proper partner. He has been educated. The price was nearly 2,000 lives lost and thousands more scarred; the imposition of a cruel dictatorship on the Palestinian people; the inculcation of the cult of martyrdom into Palestinian society; and a rising belief among impressionable Palestinians that they will get their state from the Jordan to the Med."

I attach six articles below.

-- Tom Gross



FULL ARTICLES

“FROM NOW ON, WE DO BUSINESS WITH PEOPLE WHO DO HONEST BUSINESS WITH US”

Predictions for the Middle East
By Michael Kelly
The Washington Post
June 27, 2002

In the wake of the extraordinary speech George Bush gave in the Rose Garden Monday afternoon, here are several modest predictions: Yasser Arafat will be gone as the leader of the Palestinian Authority within a year probably within six months. And he will be gone in the best possible manner: not made a heroic "martyr" by an Israeli bomb or bullet, nor sent into yet another forced exile to wreak more destruction as a heroic leader-in-exile. No, this time the tired, old, failed, disgraced little tyrant without a country will leave as the loser he is; he will be forced into retirement by his own long-suffering people.

The Palestinians will elect leaders who at least credibly promise a representative government of laws, who at least credibly promise to reject terror and murder and war as the means toward statehood, who at least credibly are committed to achieving a workable two-state, side-by-side peace with Israel. The peace process will begin anew, with some (fragile) hope.

Israel and the United States will respond by supporting the development of something that has never existed in history, a functioning Palestinian state. While taking heroic measures to protect itself, Israel will support this development with major concessions. The Palestinian people will also support this process. So will the important Arab states. A nascent peace will take hold.

In a matter of only a few years, Palestine will be one of two new Arab democratic states. The other neonatal Arab democracy will be Iraq. These unthinkable developments will revolutionize the power dynamic in the Middle East, powerfully adding to the effects of the liberation of Afghanistan to force Arab and Islamic regimes to increasingly allow democratic reforms. A majority of Arabs will come to see America as the essential ally in progress toward liberty in their own lands.

Within the boundaries of gambling and guessing, I believe all this might really come to pass. The reason I do is that George Bush believes it might.

There is some limited truth in seeing what Bush is trying to do in the Middle East in traditional terms hard-liners vs. State Department softies, etc. but this is missing the elephant on the settee. For better or worse a great deal better, I think Bush has set the Palestinian issue within the context of a larger approach that is fundamentally, historically radical: a rejection of decades of policy, indeed a rejection of the entire philosophy of Middle East diplomacy.

This philosophy has rested on a willingness to accept a U.S. role as a player in a running fraud. In the interests of "stability" and cheap oil and concessions to American military needs, the United States chose to recognize all regimes (except those such as Iran, Libya and Iraq who openly attacked us or the regional status quo) as more or less legitimate. Successive American administrations looked the other way as regimes established gangster states, police states, fascist theocracies; as they erected democracies that were dictatorships; as they looted and tortured and killed vast numbers of their own; as they provided crucial territorial, financial and logistical support to terrorists who murdered Americans. We pretended that these regimes were honorable and that we could do honorable business with them.

The Oslo peace process, which ended in a self-made disaster, was the perfect fruit of this tree. The administrations of Bill Clinton and Yitzhak Rabin knew of course that Arafat was wholly duplicitous, wholly incompetent and a delusional murderous schemer. They knew his people knew this. They knew he was lying when he pretended to want a workable peace. They knew his people knew this too. Yet, they treated him as an honest man upon whom could be built a decent peace and a decent state.

To the Palestinians, this said that the Americans were stupid and weak. It also said that they were corrupt. As they had in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, the freedom-trumpeting Americans were happy to support tyrannies whenever it suited Washington's interests. And so they were doubly worthy of contempt.

In his Monday speech, as in his policy as a whole, Bush is announcing an end to all this. He is saying, repeatedly and clearly, that the United States will seriously, on principle support all genuine efforts at peace and toward democracy and human rights in a Palestinian state and in all the countries of the Middle East. And the United States will seriously, on principle support a real Palestinian state, with whatever reasonable concessions from Israel that requires.

But the United States for the next three years at least is out of the old fraud game. From now on, we do business with people who do honest business with us. That is radical, and it will produce radical results.

 

“PRESIDENT BUSH HAS A CLEAR POST-OSLO POLICY REGARDING A FUTURE PALESTINE”

Post-Oslo Mideast
By William Safire
The New York Times
June 27, 2002

The Oslo "process priesthood" was thunderstruck by President Bush's vision of a free and prosperous state for Palestinian Arabs.

For weeks, those experts had been leaking their certainty of Bush's adoption of the same old formula for failure: (1) declaration of an interim Palestinian state under Yasser Arafat's dictatorship, with a "timeline" to force Israeli concessions, (2) a peace conference to impose on Israel the Clinton offer to return to indefensible borders and divide Jerusalem, sweetened by (3) Saudi-led Arab acceptance of Israel's existence.

But Bush this week placed responsibility for the war on Arafat's "unacceptable" support of terror. Our rattled establishment of experts in the State Department and the elite media immediately put out word that Bush had deviated from the course they expected only because of some last-minute proof of Arafat's personal sponsorship of a suicide bombing.

It's time to conclude that President Bush has a clear post-Oslo policy regarding a future Palestine. In the creation of that new state, why accept the model of so many other Arab dictatorships? Why not build in for its new citizens the safeguards and opportunities of a modern democracy?

Westerners who believe Arabs are doomed to rule by monarchs or demagogues scorn such idealism. They argue that even if given a genuine opposition, a free media and a secret ballot, Palestinian voters will never reject Arafat, revered symbol of their drive for statehood.

Maybe this pessimistic reading is correct. Perhaps most Palestinians, given the choice, would place hatred of Israelis over personal self-interest and peace. What if Arafat were to win, and "one man, one vote, but only once" prevailed? What if free elections were to enthrone dictatorship, corruption and terror?

That's where Bush's post-Oslo realism has a political sophistication that the priesthood in its ritual negotiation fails to grasp. The president recognizes that elections of an executive alone do not a democracy make.

That's why the Palestinian state envisioned by Bush protects the people by separating government powers. His "reform" offers substantial financial help to create a constitution with a strong legislature and an independent judiciary.

"Israel should release frozen Palestinian revenues," Bush adds, "into honest, accountable hands" not into what Palestinians know to be foreign bank accounts of Arafat's corrupt lackeys or Iranian arms merchants. Reform will come only with the formative state's "transparency and independent auditing."

Talk about engagement. Here is an American president leading the world beyond fixation on one terrorist collaborator, and beyond the process priesthood's "comprehensive peace agreement that never seems to come." With his Reaganesque style and surprisingly Wilsonian outlook, Bush is now actively engaged in fostering the creation of the first Arab state that could provide freedom, equality and the good life to millions of its citizens.

The odds are against him. The monarchies of Saudi Arabia and Jordan and the dictatorships of Egypt and Syria would be threatened by a successful Arab democratic experiment. Centers of terrorism in Baghdad and Tehran, as well as the cells of Al Qaeda, will go all out to inflame the minority of Palestinian jihadists who dedicate their lives to their final solution of the Israeli problem.

Palestinian patriots may find that the only way to statehood requires civil war. The majority of residents of Gaza and the West Bank dream of a peaceful and productive life in a free country. They are denied this today not by Israel nor by America, but by the minority of terrorists among them who want totalitarian control of all Palestinians as well as Jews.

Will these patriotic Palestinians vote for their freedom and independence, even if it means a fight to the finish with terrorists? We don't know. Nor can anyone be sure what Bush calls "new and different" leaders will dare to emerge and show the courage to tame terrorism as they advocate territorial compromise with Israel.

We do know this: Bush's post-Oslo involvement at least offers Palestinians a way to satisfy the universal human desire for a good life under honest government where they can go to work instead of watch their children go to war.

The audacious Bush offer is on the table. Israel cannot fail to cooperate. Will Palestinians miss this opportunity, too?

 

THE ECONOMIST

(Extract)

In an editorial, The Economist considered the speech a "one-sided peace vision" and suggested that it was driven by domestic American politics:

"Most of Mr. Bush's critics will be tempted to explain this week's sharp pro-Israeli turn by reference to America's domestic politics. There is something in this. America has a well-organised Jewish lobby, supported nowadays by conservative Christian groups; the president is preparing for November's mid-term elections, with control of Congress and the fate of his brother Jeb in Florida in the balance... The American administration, and the governments of Europe and the Arab world, may agree on the need to create a Palestinian state alongside Israel in the West Bank and Gaza. But they do not agree on who the bad guys are. And this makes all the difference."

 

“PUT YOUR FLAK JACKETS ON, PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH HAS SPOKEN”

Robert Fisk: I wonder why Bush doesn't let Sharon run his press office
June 26, 2002

Put your flak jackets on, President George Bush has spoken. He wants a regime change in Palestine, just as he wants a regime change in Iraq. He reads the Israeli government press handouts and accurately quotes them to his American people.

Ariel Sharon, wants the destruction/ liquidation/ resignation of Yasser Arafat. So does Mr Bush. "Peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership so a Palestinian state can be born," Bush told the fearful American people, waiting for the next apocalypse, be it on 4 July or after.

So, no Palestinian state unless Arafat goes. There were no Bush conditions for Israel. He did not secure an end to the continuing building of Jewish settlements for Jews and Jews only on Arab (that is somebody else's) land. Nor did he secure a halt to continuing Israeli military "incursions" how I love that word "incursions".

Mr Sharon, in his highly mendacious demand for Palestinian "transparency", has demanded Palestinian reform must be neither cosmetic nor an attempt to preserve Arafat. And what does Mr Bush say? Why, that Palestinian reform "must be more than cosmetic changes or a veiled attempt to preserve the status quo".

Why, I wonder, doesn't Mr Bush let Ariel Sharon run the White House press bureau? Not only would it be more honest we would at least be hearing the voice of Israel at first hand but it would spare the American President the ignominy of parroting everything he is told by the Israelis.

All that he offers to the Palestinians is a ghastly mockery of what the Palestinians are told to do by the Israelis.

There never has been an "interim" state, let alone a "provisional" state. These are fantasies of the Israelis and Mr Bush. White House "officials" we can guess who they are believe a Palestinian state can be "achieved" within 18 months. Let's forget international law provides for no such entity.

Let's go over again that most crucial and most dishonest part of the Bush statement.

"When the Palestinian people have new leaders, new institutions and new security arrangements with their neighbours," he told us, "the United States of America will support the creation of a Palestinian state, whose border and certain aspects of its sovereignty will be provisional until resolved as part of a final settlement in the Middle East." Let's see what this means: when the Palestinians have elected a leader whom the Israelis want a condition that could go on to the crack of doom the Americans will support a Palestinian state whose very existence will mean nothing unless Israel approves what that state wants to do.

In other words, the United States will be Israel's spokesman in any negotiations. A growing number of Americans know they are being suckered by their own government and their own press, that their country's foreign policy is being manipulated to give maximum support to one and only one country in the Middle East. So will "certain aspects of its sovereignty". Note these weighty words. "Certain aspects" of its sovereignty.

What, I wonder, does this mean? Do these "certain aspects" include the continuation of illegal Jewish settlement building? Or the absence of any international guarantees for this interim/provisional state? Or perhaps a get-out clause for the United States to wash its hands of the whole shebang if Israel decides to annex the entire West Bank?

Note, again, the weasel words. Palestine's borders will be "provisional ... until resolved as part of a final settlement in the Middle East". Yet never before has an occupied people been led by so pathetic a person as Yasser Arafat. Nineteen years ago, this same Yasser Arafat swore to me on a hilltop above the Lebanese city of Tripoli that his "Palestine" would be "a democracy among the guns". His Palestine, he told me, would be unlike any other Arab state. There would be no secret policemen, no "regime", no cronyism, no corruption.

Fast forward to the spring of 1998. I am listening to a French diplomat who has returned from Gaza. He and his delegation carried a personal letter to Arafat from President Chirac. Again and again, Arafat disregarded the letter, only interested in when the new French school in Gaza will open. The diplomats understand. One of Arafat's relatives will be the headmistress of this school. Family before nation. The Chirac letter stays unopened.

Yes, as Nabil Shaath, one of the most loyal and most obsequious of Arafat's ministers, says, "a state is a state, and you cannot be provisionally pregnant and you cannot have a provisional state". It might have been wiser and more honest if he had reminded us that the CIA trained the gunmen and intelligence thugs who worked for Arafat; if he had outlined the imprisonment and torture that Arafat inflicted on his Palestinian opponents with the complicity of those who supported the "peace process".

For it is becoming ever more obvious that Arafat did not fail in his duties as Palestinian leader. He failed in his duties as Israel's and thus America's proxy colonial apparatchik in the West Bank and Gaza. The fact he is a corrupt little despot does not change this.

He was given time to prove his loyalty to the West, to America, to Israel. He was supposed to have made Israel's settlements both safe and sacred.

Now, when he can no longer control the people he was supposed to control remember the BBC's repeated question: "Can he control his own people?" his usefulness is at an end. He must go, to be replaced by our choice of leader forget elections who will be as democratic as the new Afghan "interim" government.

George Bush insulted the Palestinians and enraged the leadership of the Arab world. Who cares about the latter? Most of them were appointed by us. But I have a feeling that the Palestinians will not accept this nonsense.

Which is why they will be condemned as never before as "terrorists".

 

“THE SPEECH ITSELF WAS NOT SO MUCH WHITE HOUSE AS LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE”

The President's proposals make peace in the Middle East impossible
If I were a careerist in Ramallah, I'd start organising the Palestinian version of the early Sinn Fein right now
By David Aaronovitch
The Independent
June 26, 2002

The speech itself was not so much White House as Little House on the Prairie. All, said George Bush, that had to happen for there to be a Palestinian state (which, of course, we all want) was for the Palestinians democratically to kick out their horrid old leadership and replace it with a nice, new, peace-minded leadership. This new dispensation plus major reforms would clear the way for talks which, in the fullness of time, might or might not settle a few other tricky little matters, such as how big a Palestinian state might be, whether part of Jerusalem would be in it and whether Israeli settlements built in violation of United Nations resolutions would be dismantled. We'd have to see about that.

So it's all knitted samplers and best bonnets. As the President argued, the present situation is hopeless. "It is untenable," he said on Monday, "for Israeli citizens to live in terror. It is untenable for Palestinians to live in squalor and occupation". And you can't say fairer than that. It was the same belief that drove his predecessor, Bill Clinton, to his hunt for a peace plan, which just eluded him, first at Camp David and then at Taba on the Israeli-Egyptian border.

It's worth recapping on that process. There was, for a moment at the end of 2000 and the beginning of 2001, a deal possible in which the Palestinians ended up with almost all of the West Bank, with part of Jerusalem and with a territory that was contiguous. But the Israelis had done too little to build Palestinian confidence in the period following Oslo, and Arafat lacked the courage or vision to seize the moment. A new intifada began, that was met by tanks, the number of terrorist attacks increased and Israel reoccupied much of the West Bank. Now, so far have the prospects for peace receded, that even exchanges between participants conducted in the almost scholarly pages of the New York Review of Books sound as though they can only be resolved by violence.

So what is George Bush's Ingredient X, the thing which, when added to the punch, makes agreement possible? It is, apparently, that Yasser and his mates sling their hooks and make way for a new generation of leaders. "Peace," says the President, "requires a new and different Palestinian leadership, so that a Palestinian state can be born. I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror." If they do this, then Ariel Sharon and the Israelis will presumably be cajoled by the United States into reviving the Taba agreement (or something like it).

Well Amen to that. I don't actually possess (nor have I seen) the evidence that Arafat has been organisationally involved in the suicide bombings, but I do know that Janus-like he has said one thing to the Western media while talking the easy language of martyrdom to his own constituency. But I find myself asking why it is that his constituency requires the language of martyrdom to be spoken to it in the first place. Surely that's the reality that must be dealt with. OK, I'm getting ahead of myself, so lets take a rain-check on reality for a moment and go back to George W. Who continues: "Leaders who want to be included in the peace process must show this by their deeds and undivided support for peace." Never mind the Palestinians, how should we apply such a sentiment to Ariel Sharon and his Likud party? Let alone to the vulture figure of Binyamin Netanyahu and those cabinet ministers who support the forcible transportation of the Arab populations of the West Bank and Gaza? Should we wish them all away, blow on them, like dandelion heads in the summer?

It is not even a matter of democracy. After all, was not Arafat himself elected back in 1996, in a process overseen by, amongst others, ex-President Carter? And when Bush adds, "If Palestinians embrace democracy, confront corruption, and firmly reject terror, they can count on America's support for creation of a provisional state of Palestine", one wonders what would happen to other nations were their statehood only to be recognised under the same conditions. No wonder that, according to a Likud minister, Danny Naveh, Bush's address is to be remembered as "the end of Arafat speech".

Even so, if any of this were likely for one single moment to work, then many people would be prepared to ignore its naןvetי and asymmetry. But it can't. It is, uniquely, the peace plan that makes peace impossible. Successful peace processes depend upon narrowing the number of people and situations that can, in effect, place a veto on progress. They operate by allowing the accumulation of small confidences, and binding their results into a bigger picture. This is the opposite. It offers just about anyone a veto who wants one.

Cherie Blair's mistake, when she gave her short impromptu answer to that journalist the other day, was to seem to assume that desperation alone leads to suicide terrorism. It is probably the case that desperation causes more young people to volunteer for such missions, but the organisations and ideologies behind the murders are not motivated by temporary anger. Their objective is the destruction of a peace process that they see as being the end to their hopes of eventual victory. For the lover of peace they have no redeeming moral features whatsoever. They are the enemy. It follows that if you allow acts of terror to disrupt the process of peace, then you allow the suicide bombers an effective veto. You give them what they want.

There are brave Palestinians who oppose the suicide bomb obscenity. Two thousand academics and intellectuals have signed a petition calling for an end to this form of terrorism. These, presumably, would be the type of people whom we would want to encourage and to strengthen, who would become the partners for peace. In the elections already scheduled for next year, these are the forces who we might hope will come forward. Just as we might have hoped that Sharon, with his grim history, would never lead the state of Israel. If I were a careerist in Ramallah I'd start organising the Palestinian version of the early Sinn Fein right now.

In any case, imagine the results of the Palestinian election. "Him?" says an Israeli spokesman, justifying a refusal to negotiate. "He was once a member of an organisation whose armed wing was behind a bombing in Haifa 10 years ago. "Her? She was a journalist on a station which broadcast a eulogy to a bomber."

On the other side, any Palestinian opposed to peace only has to reject the seeming attempt to impose a leadership on his or her people.

I have my own ideas about what can work, but this cannot. You cannot make peace by dictating who represents the people you are dealing with. Especially since the voters who will have to find and elect these negotiators have no guarantee even that there will be negotiations. Colin Powell's original plan was to recognise a provisional Palestinian state, and to move gradually on from there. Then someone in the White House got to mess with it. Someone stupid.

 


MR BUSH MAY BE HALF-RIGHT

Mr Bush may be half-right, but he has broken the first rule of statesmanship
Main Editorial
The Independent
June 26, 2002

A little more than two months ago, the US President George Bush stood in the White House rose garden and announced a radical and welcome about-turn in policy. With the dove-ish Secretary of State, Colin Powell, at his side, he spoke of his Administration's intention of returning to wholehearted engagement in the Middle East, recording his support for a Palestinian state, while calling for an end to terrorism and the withdrawal of Israel from all occupied territory.

The speech delivered by the US President on Monday from the selfsame rose garden could hardly have been more different. Gone were the calls for an immediate Israeli withdrawal from occupied territory; gone, too, were calls for an immediate halt to the building of settlements. In their place was an out-and-out demand for the replacement of the Palestinian leadership as a necessary condition for a settlement.

Mr Bush did not mention Yasser Arafat by name, but his message was clear. Until the Palestinians elected leaders more congenial to the United States and to Israel, until they reformed along more American lines, there could be no peace, certainly not one that Washington could underwrite.

Mr Bush's decision to turn his attention back to the Middle East, on the eve of the world leaders' summit in Canada, has had one positive effect. It has placed the subject on the international agenda and reopened a discussion about how the hideous cycle of violence might be halted. And in tackling the question of the Palestinian leadership head-on, Mr Bush has said no more than is acknowledged behind the closed doors of diplomacy: it is hard to envisage a lasting peace so long as Yasser Arafat holds the reins of Palestinian power. But what Mr Bush omitted to say, and is surely as true, is that the cause of peace is unlikely to be furthered while Ariel Sharon holds power in Israel. It takes two to make peace, and neither leader seems disposed to make the requisite concessions or show the requisite vision. This is what makes third-party intervention so urgent and where all the inadequacies of Mr Bush's latest approach start to show.

Mr Bush's speech, and the lead-up to it, risks making matters even worse, if that were possible. By leaking selective details about support for a "provisional" Palestinian state, the White House raised expectations and trapped Mr Bush into having to say something at a time that was not of his choosing. The result was delay and the impression of indecision.

By calling directly for new Palestinian leaders, and recommending new elections, new courts, new business practices everything, in fact, short of new people Mr Bush broke the first rule of statesmanship: non-interference in other people's internal affairs. And he did so in a way that was politically and practically counterproductive. As so maddeningly often, he showed himself utterly deaf to the likely international reaction. The response from European leaders, even from Tony Blair, was lukewarm, with the rider that it was up to the Palestinians who led them and how. From all but the most pro-American Arabs there was indignation that will only strengthen Mr Arafat's regional and domestic support.

Not for the first time, Mr Bush may learn the hard way that a 21st-century US President must play not just to Peoria, but to a wider world. Constructive Middle East engagement needs a broader perspective than the rose garden offers and a vision that goes beyond the next election.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.