The devolution of President Bush’s foreign policy is vividly on display on his trip to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In the case of North Korea, Iran, and Israel, the arc of Bush foreign policy has become Clintonian, predicated on empty words and meaningless gestures. I tried to point out one aspect of this devolution in “When words lose their meaning,” noting President Bush’s silent abandonment of the critieria he himself had articulated for attendeance at the Annapolis peace conference. Did anyone notice?
As he urges Palestinian statehood, President Bush continues to assert despite appearances to the contrary that President Abbas and the Arabs within the Palestinian Authority understand the importance of “democratic states living side by side in peace.” The rise of Hamas would seem to suggest otherwise. The fact that Hamas has seized control of territory within the nascent Palestinian state presents something of a problem (as does the continuing terrorism wrought by Fatah and other forces operating on the West Bank). Here is how President Bush put it yesterday in his press conference with the nominal leader of the Palestinian Authority, the gentleman who still sports a nom de guerre:
I’m confident that two democratic states living side by side in peace is in the interests not only of the Palestinians and the Israelis, but of the world. The question is whether or not the hard issues can be resolved and the vision emerges, so that the choice is clear amongst the Palestinians — the choice being, do you want this state, or do you want the status quo? Do you want a future based upon a democratic state, or do you want the same old stuff? And that’s a choice that I’m confident that if the Palestinian people are given, they will choose peace.
And here is President Bush on the knotty little problem of Hamastan:
First of all, Gaza is a tough situation. I don’t know whether you can solve it in a year, or not. But I know this: It can’t be solved unless the Prime Minister — the President has a vision that he can lay out to the people of Gaza that says, here’s your choice: Do you want those who have created chaos to run your country, or do you want those of us who negotiated a settlement with the Israelis that will lead to lasting peace?
There is a competing vision taking place in Gaza. And in my judgment, Hamas, which I felt ran on a campaign of, we’re going to improve your lives through better education and better health, have delivered nothing but misery. And I’m convinced his government will yield a hopeful future. And the best way to make that abundantly clear is for there to be a vision that’s understandable.
See, the past has just been empty words, you know. We — actually it hasn’t been that much — I’m the only President that’s really articulated a two-state solution so far — but saying two states really doesn’t have much bearing until borders are defined, right of return issues resolved, Jerusalem is understood, security measures — the common security measures will be in place. That’s what I’m talking about. I’m talking about a clear, defined state around which people can rally.
And there’s going to be — there will be no better difference, a clear difference, than the vision of Hamas in Gaza and the vision of the President and the Prime Minister and his team based here in Ramallah. And to me, that’s how you solve the issue in the long-term. And the definition of long-term, I don’t know what it means. I’m not a timetable person — actually, I am on a timetable — got 12 months. (Laughter.) But I’m impressed by the President’s understanding about how a vision and a hopeful future will help clearly define the stakes amongst the Palestinian people.
President Bush is engaged in the diplomacy of as if, disproved every day by events; it is at the least disappointing, dispiriting, destructive.
UDPATE: Witness the evident difficulty of squaring the circle in the Wall Street Journal report “Bush gives Israel scope for antiterror acts.”
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