July 18, 2007

Bush speech punditry

By Noah Pollak

I intend to post my own comments later, but for now, here's what other people are saying about President Bush's Monday speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Michael Oren in the Wall St. Journal:

...there can be no underrating the sea change in America's policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict brought about by this administration. If, under U.N. Resolution 242, Israelis were expected to relinquish territory and only then receive peace, now the Arabs will have to cede many aspects of peace--non-belligerency and recognition--well in advance of receiving territory.

Similarly, Mr. Bush's commitment to maintain Israel's Jewish majority signals the total rescinding of American support for Resolution 194, which provided for refugee return. Moreover, by insisting that the Palestinians first construct durable and transparent institutions before attaining independence, Mr. Bush effectively reversed the process, set out in the 1993 Oslo Accords, whereby the Palestinians would obtain statehood immediately and only later engage in institution building. Peace-for-land, preserving the demographic status quo, and building a civil society prior to achieving statehood--these are the pillars of Mr. Bush's doctrine on peace.

But will it work? Given the Palestinians' historical inability to sustain sovereign structures and their repeated (1938, 1947, 1979, 2000) rejection of offers of a state, the chances hardly seem sanguine.

Much of the administration's hope for a breakthrough rests on the Palestinians' newly appointed prime minister, Salaam Fayyad, who is purportedly incorruptible. Nevertheless, one righteous man is unlikely to succeed in purging the Palestinian Authority of embezzlement and graft and uniting its multiple militias.

The Saudis will probably balk at the notion of recognizing Israel before it exits the West Bank and Jerusalem, and Palestinian refugees throughout the region will certainly resist any attempt to prevent them from regaining their former homes. Iran and Syria and their Hamas proxies can be counted on to undermine the process at every stage, often with violence.

Yet, despite the scant likelihood of success, Mr. Bush is to be credited for delineating clear and equitable criteria for pursuing Palestinian independence and for drafting a principled blueprint for peace. This alone represents a bold response to Hamas and its backers in Damascus and Tehran. The Palestinians have been given their diplomatic horizon and the choice between "chaos, suffering, and the endless perpetuation of grievance," and "security and a better life."

The New York Sun:

Most welcome was Mr. Bush's pointed remark that Israel's survival as a "Jewish state" is a basic condition; this amounts to a rejection of the Palestinian "right of return." Mr. Bush is evidently gambling against long odds that the deteriorating circumstances among the Palestinians highlighted by the Hamas take-over in Gaza, requires a lowering of the bar. The Palestinian leader on whom Mr. Bush is placing his bet, Mahmoud Abbas, has been either unwilling or unable to meet the standards set in the 2002 speech. With the Iranian-backed Hamas looming in the wings, Mr. Bush seems focused on the mere survival of Mr. Abbas and his political allies.

John Podhoretz in the New York Post:

Bush made it clear yesterday that the choice is in the hands of the Palestinian people. They need to change, not just their leaders.

Which is why - despite Bush's embrace of diplomatic techniques used in the past solely to put pressure on Israel - supporters of Israel shouldn't fear the results of yesterday's speech.

Yes, Bush called for an "international conference." Yes, he spoke warmly of European and Arab participation in a two-state solution. But he made it clear that, in the American perspective - which is really the only perspective that matters - there will only be a Palestinian state if there is a Palestinian revolution in consciousness.

Guy Bechor, writing in Ynet News, wants to pack it in:

Perhaps the Israeli government has still not internalized the disengagement mentality that is required here, because any involvement in Palestinian issues on our part always ends in a big bang. What we think bolsters Mahmud Abbas usually serves to weaken him and vice versa. Moreover, will one immunity deal or another change the face of the huge conflict raging between the nationalist stream and political Islam in the Arab world?

As we are not familiar with the rules and as real risks to Israel's security are at stake, such gestures should be avoided as should involvement in the Palestinian world - which is entirely delusional as far as we are concerned.

Should Israel worry about convening the Palestinian national council? Should it bring Naif Hawatmeh here? What's going on? Have we returned to the delusional years of Oslo? These are delusions whose time has passed, and the Israeli government would do well to avoid the self-deception, the involvement and the ensuing disappointment that will inevitably occur when it all explodes in its face.

Israel would do well to announce it will no longer interfere in Palestinian life. Not in punishing Hamas nor in compensating Fatah; not in unnecessary targeted killings nor in delusional prisoner releases.

We should disengage from the Palestinian world, for better or for worse, and focus on ourselves alone.

Is Ghada Karmi a Zionist agent? Her advice to the Palestinians in the Guardian is so bad that one could be forgiven for thinking so:

Without confronting the contradiction at the heart of the equation, there can be no Israeli-Palestinian or regional peace. Creating an independent Palestinian state against Israel's wishes, while simultaneously supporting Israel unreservedly, cannot work. Palestinian demands for an Israeli withdrawal from the 1967 territories, the return of refugees and full state sovereignty are all rejected by Israel. The western powers, which could have countered this rejection, are fatally compromised by their devotion to Israel's regional supremacy. To resolve the impasse, one of the sides of the equation must fall. On past evidence, it will not be Israel's. So what does Fatah, having excluded Hamas and obeyed western diktat, hope to gain from this incompatible situation?

Tony Blair's recent appointment as Middle East peace envoy is indicative. Rather than face the basic contradictions fuelling the conflict, the Quartet preferred another pointless gesture that substitutes process for substance, hoping to convince the Arabs that something is being done, but in reality postponing the moment of reckoning. Palestinians, who will pay the price for this prevarication, must expose the basic contradiction in the western position that perpetuates the conflict. They must confront the west with the inconvenient truth: that trying to meet Palestinian demands and indulging Israel are incompatible, doomed objectives. Only by shedding their differences and regrouping to fight their real enemy, and not each other, will the Palestinians have finally learned the lessons of history.

Posted by Noah Pollak at July 18, 2007 8:38 AM
Post a comment

Winner, The 2008 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Read my blog on Kindle









Sponsored Links

Buy a used boat

Shanghai Hotels

Yachts for sale


Recommended Reading