The Corner

Bush’s Israel Speech

I loved George Bush’s speech in Israel today. I loved the compliments to Israel on what it has accomplished in so short a time. (Though I was puzzled about that passing idea that Israel’s accomplishments might be a model for the region. Are those Islamic nations democracies? Are they focused on education and the cultivation of human capital? Indeed, have Islam and Judaism created similar cultures anywhere, ever, since medieval Spain? But still, I liked the optimism.) I especially admired and was grateful for the assurances that the United States will stand with Israel against the major threats to that nation’s existence.

I was happy to hear the president reiterate his view that there should be a two-state solution — but only after the Palestinians give up violence, terrorism, suicide bombings, terrorism, and violence.

And violence.

As it happens, throughout the Bush presidency, I have admired almost all of his speeches, and as many of his sometimes awkwardly expressed — but always staunch emotions, on a great many subjects.

But speeches and emotions are not really the heart of the matter, when you hold the most powerful job in the world. It’s what you do….

And I kept thinking about how, a week ago Condoleezza Rice was out in the region, pressuring Israel to meet with Hamas representatives; pushing the (hopefully terminally) weakened Ehud Olmert to make concessions, among them ensuring that the Palestinians have all the arms they need to keep up the more warm than cold war at the borders. Doesn’t she work for Bush? Why is GWB emulating Bill Clinton and his own father in their failed, end-of-term attempts to shore up their reputations by making peace between Israel and the Palestinians? Peace and stability in Iraq and Afghanistan are a big enough job, and the ones on which this administration’s ultimate record will rest.

I know it is anathema to the “can do” American spirit to say that some efforts are futile. Still, one of the few really wise things that former Israeli Labor PM Shimon Peres ever said, was — and I paraphrase very freely here — that the underlying conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, indeed all of the neighboring Arabs, is not a problem. When you call something a problem you imply that there is a potential solution. This conflict is a condition. It is an organic outgrowth of the nature and desires of the two very distinct peoples who want to base very different societies on the same land. A condition is something you learn to live with, more or less easily, perhaps. There isn’t going to be a solution any time soon.

But I really liked the speech.

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