Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Four Views: Bush's Speech-What Next?

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Four Views: Bush's Speech-What Next?

Article excerpt

Bush Ignores Option Of Conditioning U.S. Aid on Acceptance of Existing Peace Plan By Paul Findley

In his June 24 statement, President George W. Bush made history by taking the lead for peace in the Middle East, becoming the first U.S. president to make precise recommendations. There are serious flaws that will frustrate his hopes, however, the worst being his continuing tendency to treat the Israeli oppressors, not the Palestinians, as the victims.

Also, by demanding new Palestinian leadership, he risks repudiation when Palestinians vote in the upcoming election. Bush is hardly a hero among Palestinians, and this unpresidential expression of personal animus is apt to enhance Arafat's political strength, not diminish it.

By demanding an end to Palestinian violence--suicide bombings, for example-Bush plays into the hands of Israeli radicals who want nothing more than more time to expand settlements on Palestinian land. No Palestinian leader can stop all violence until Israeli occupation ends, and no Israeli leader-despite solemn promises to the contrary-has ever halted the construction of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land.

Instead, Bush should have stuck to the precise limits of his own presidential reach. He could have offered a carrot-and-stick combination behind recent Arab proposals. One is the peace plan of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, under which all Arab states are now pledged to make peace with Israel if it returns to the pre-June 1967 borders. The other is the improvement of the same proposal offered by the Palestinian National Authority, under which Palestinians would no longer demand the right of return to property in pre-1967 Israel that Israelis seized a half-century ago, and would yield to Israel the Wailing Wall, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, and two settlements near the old border to Israel. These are proposals that are already endorsed by the majority of Israelis.

Bush cannot order around foreign leaders, as he learned in his dealings with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, but he can put precise conditions on US. aid. For example, he can suspend all aid until Israel cooperates in one of the peace plans cited above and offer an expansion of aid to both Israelis and Palestinians when one of the plans is accepted. In a showdown with Congress over aid to Israel, Bush's father demonstrated the power of the presidency when he overcame Israel's US. lobby.

This approach is a "winner," as the late Jack Buck would say. The Bush plan means more delay, more violence, more despair. i

The Palestinians Already Have a Democratic Constitution

By Wendy Pearlman

President Bush's recent speech calling for Palestinian reforms included several astute observations. The president was right to note that the "Palestinian Legislature has no authority and power is concentrated in the hands of an unaccountable few." Palestinian legislators, after all, are trapped in their homes under military curfew. Power over all aspects of life in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is concentrated in the hands of the Israeli Cabinet and army, which are unaccountable to international law and the United Nations, no less to the three million Palestinian civilians who suffer under an unrelenting siege.

And the president was also right to remark that "today the Palestinian people lack effective courts of law and have no means to defend and vindicate their rights." The Israeli army, after all, has rounded up thousands of Palestinians without charge, trial, or access to legal counsel. They endure inhumane conditions and languish in Israeli prisons indefinitely.

Thus, Bush's analysis was incisive in many ways. But there was one key point on which he was misinformed. Twice in his speech the president told the Palestinians that they must draft a democratic constitution. Someone should have told the president that the Palestinians already have such a constitution. …

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