On Monday in “Bush Bakered” I wrote briefly about President Bush’s speech announcing a regional conference to be chaired by Secretary Rice and attended by representatives from nations that support a two-state solution, reject violence, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and commit to all previous agreements between the parties. The text of the speech is here.
Based on a reading of the text of the speech, I thought that President Bush had reneged on the basic commitments he had made five years ago demanding that the Palestinian Authority dismantle terrorist groups as a precondition to final status discussions. If that is accurate, the change in policy represents a turn toward the State Department/Iraq Study Group approach to the conflict between the Arabs and the Israelis.
Asking around yesterday about the speech, I understand that the regional conference is indeed bad news, though it depends on who attends and under what circumstances. In his speech, President Bush stated that those who attend the conference must recognize Israel. I said that the conference will be “an extremely small meeting.” Other than Egypt and Jordan, who will meet that condition? Countries such as Saudi Arabia and Syria have been in a continuous state of war with Israel since 1948. I understand that State will try to fudge on this condition. This is the key to watch. If the announced ground rules stick, the only regional players other than Israel to attend the conference will be Mahmoud Abbas, Egypt and Jordan.
I understand that Secretary Rice is driving toward the creation of a Palestinian state with provisional borders and recognition by the United States in 2008, so she can say she created a path to success for a two-state solution. The thrust of the diplomacy is obviously dangerous. Will the Paelstinian Arabs ever be held accountable for actions rather than words? Not so far. Instead they get a date certain for the conference and movement toward final status negotiations.
My understanding is that Secretary Rice demanded this as the price, so to speak, for going out and getting others to defend the Iraq policy. In her view, in order to rally regional support, the United States needs to give Israel’s Arab neighbors visible progres toward a Palestinian state.
In the world of the State Department, of which Secretary Rice appears to have become the captive, the creation of a twenty-third Arab state — rather than the inability of Israel’s neighbors to accept one Jewish state — is the key to all mythologies. See, e.g, The Iraq Study Group Report.
UPDATE: Contrary to the gist of my comments above and on Monday, Michael Oren writes from Jerusalem on Bush’s speech in today’s Wall Street Journal. He declares that “The Bush doctrine lives.”
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