Politics & Policy

George W. Clinton

Bush policy is his predecessor's, on the Mideast.

There is a story making its way around the Internet, as such stories inevitably do, about a recent encounter which took place between U.S. President George W. Bush and one of his former Yale university classmates on the eve of the president’s much-publicized visit to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland.

In tones alternating between respect and outright veneration, the author tells us to have no fear, because the president assured him personally that he would not harm Israel’s security.

“There he was — the most powerful man in the world — telling me once, then reassuring me again, that Israel’s security is of utmost importance to him,” notes the e-mail’s author.

And, lest we doubt the president’s commitment, our faithful correspondent informs us that Bush’s pledge “was sealed with two firm hugs”.

Not one, you see, but two.

Well, that certainly makes me feel better.

After all, it has barely been a week since Bush flew in to the Middle East and forced Israel into submission, compelling the Jewish people to agree to divide their land, create a terrorist state next door, and forego the right to defend themselves against those who seek their destruction.

Bush also embraced Palestinian prime minister and renowned Holocaust-denier Abu Mazen as a man of peace, refused to compel the Arab states to normalize relations with Israel, and effectively demanded that thousands of Jews be thrown out of their homes in Judea, Samaria and Gaza against their will.

So, I guess it’s a good thing that Israel’s security is “of utmost importance” to him. Otherwise, we might really have reason to be worried.

But worry we should, because by all indications, Bush has now decided to adopt the approach of his predecessor, Bill Clinton, who continued to court the Palestinians even as they violated their commitments and carried out acts of terror against the Jewish state, all the while twisting Israel’s arm to refrain from protecting its national interests.

It is interesting to note that before he was elected, Bush was singing a very different tune. He went to great lengths to differentiate himself from Clinton’s policy on the Middle East peace process, which often seemed to stress speed over substance.

On May 22, 2000, in an address to American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Bush took a swipe at the Clinton-Gore team, saying, “In recent times, Washington has tried to make Israel conform to its own plans and timetables. This is not the path to peace.”

Subsequently, in October 2000, in his third presidential debate with Al Gore, Bush again attacked Clinton, stressing that “the next leader needs to be patient. We can’t put the Middle East peace process on our timetable. It’s got to be on the timetable of the people that we’re trying to bring to the peace table. We can’t dictate the terms of peace.”

Yet now, just two-and-a-half years later, that is exactly what Bush is attempting to do. In laying out the road map leading to the creation of a Palestinian state, Bush has sought both to impose a series of timetables as well as to dictate the outcome of the process.

In other words, he’s become George W. Clinton, only without the intern.

And so, we now find ourselves once again confronting an awfully similar scenario, one in which Israel is forced to make concessions even as the Palestinians persist in killing Jews.

Indeed, in the first three days following Bush’s June 4 summit in Aqaba, there were a total of 24 Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israelis, including shootings, bombings and rocket attacks.

Then, this past Sunday, five Israelis were murdered in yet another post-Aqaba measure of the Palestinian commitment to peace.

And so how did the Bush team react to this new spasm of Palestinian violence? Why, by turning up the pressure on Israel, of course.

The Sharon government’s sudden decision on Monday to start dismantling Jewish outposts in the territories reportedly came about only after America demanded immediate action on the issue. Within hours, the bulldozers were unleashed, and Jewish homes were under assault.

It is safe to assume that the lack of an Israeli military response to the recent spate of Palestinian attacks is also the result of Washington’s diktat, since the Jewish right to self-defense was apparently not considered worthy of inclusion in the road map.

At first glance, it is difficult to comprehend the Bush team’s infatuation with the new Palestinian premier. Since assuming his post, Mahmoud Abbas (a.k.a. Abu Mazen) hasn’t shut down a single terrorist training camp, he has not confiscated any illegal weapons, and he has failed to halt anti-US and anti-Israel incitement in the Palestinian media.

Not one terrorist group has been disarmed or disbanded, and no Palestinian terrorists have been arrested or detained by the security forces under Abbas’s control.

And, in a press conference held Monday in Ramallah, Abbas openly ruled out the possibility of confrontation with terrorist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, saying only that he would use “dialogue” in his dealings with them.

Nevertheless, despite Abbas’s dismal record, Bush and his aides continue to deny reality, overlooking the Palestinian leader’s failure to do more than just offer up a few platitudes about peace.

Nowhere was this willful obfuscation more on display than in U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell’s interview on Fox News Sunday, where he said, “We’ve made our choice. We are going to be supporting Prime Minister Abbas.”

And so, it doesn’t really seem to matter whether or not Abbas lives up to his end of the bargain. Either way, the Bush team will not hold him accountable, because, as Powell so clearly stated, “We’ve made our choice.”

This, too, is a throwback to the Clinton era, when Washington purposefully made a choice to overlook PA Chairman Yasser Arafat’s complicity in terror, just because it conflicted with their vision for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

But as the decade since the signing of the 1993 Oslo accords so amply demonstrated, such an approach is not only shortsighted, it can be deadly too, for it sends the Palestinians a dangerous message, leading them to believe that they can murder Israelis with impunity.

On a flight to South America this past Monday, Colin Powell told reporters that regardless of the recent attacks on Israel, “we can’t let the terrorists win.”

What he fails to realize is that by following in Clinton’s footsteps, and pressing for the establishment of a Palestinian state, that is precisely what he and his boss in the White House are doing.

Michael Freund served as deputy director of communications and policy planning in the Israeli prime minister’s office. He now writes for the Jerusalem Post, from which this is taken, with permission.


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