A Perspective on President Bush's
Vision for the Israeli-Palestinian
Conflict - Bill Koenig
Inside the White House -
by Bill Koenig
I have provided President Bush's Monday, July 16, 2007, speech on his vision for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
There are a lot of ifs, ands and buts. The contingencies he laid out for Hamas are unreachable and he may very well know that.
He is giving Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas some sizeable economic inducements and is hoping to spread democracy to the Palestinians.
He called on Israel to freeze further settlement construction and evacuate unauthorized settlements. He has Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert meeting with Abbas in an effort to prop him up. Olmert is keeping busy on the peace front in an effort to stay in office, but he is probably to weak to force Israelis out of their settlement homes without toppling his government through a no-confidence vote due to his very slim majority.
Could President Bush be planning for Israel to give the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) to Abbas for the beginning of a Palestinian state, with the Gaza problem to be worked out later? We will watch this closely.
Additionally, he strongly called on other Arab countries to acknowledge Israel's right to exist and to open diplomatic relations; this is very unlikely to happen too.
The bottom line is, there are a lot of major benchmarks in his speech that must be fulfilled; and based on history, these will be grandiose plans and visions that never come to fruition. Rhetoric seldom leads to accomplishment in the Middle East.
Following are highlights from President Bush's speech, along with my perspective. This will give you a good handle on President Bush's thinking and help you further see the challenges of dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
President Bush stated in his vision for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on July 16, 2007, at the White House:
More than five years ago, I became the first American President to call for the creation of a Palestinian state. In the Rose Garden, I said that Palestinians should not have to live in poverty and occupation. I said that the Israelis should not have to live in terror and violence. And I laid out a new vision for the future — two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security.
Bush on Hamas
Hamas radicals betrayed the Palestinian people with a lawless and violent takeover.
By its actions, Hamas has demonstrated beyond all doubt that it is [more] devoted to extremism and murder than to serving the Palestinian people.
There is the vision of Hamas, which the world saw in Gaza — with murderers in black masks, summary executions and men thrown to their death from rooftops. By following this path, the Palestinian people would guarantee chaos, suffering and the endless perpetuation of grievances. They would surrender their future to Hamas's foreign sponsors in Syria and Iran. And they would crush the possibility of any — of a Palestinian state.
Perspective: Hamas won 70 percent of the vote in the January 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections. Arafat and Abbas' Fatah were known for corruption, embezzlement and not meeting the social needs of the Palestinians; by contrast, Hamas met many of those needs and won Palestinian favor.
Will Hamas' recent horrific violence against Fatah followers move the Palestinians away from Hamas? Not likely — at least, not in large numbers. But if they don't move away from Hamas, Abbas will have little chance of implementing his plans.
Will money buy Abbas support? Abbas' cooperation with President Bush and the international community has put a lot of money at his disposal, as you will see below.
Bush Says There Is an Alternative: the Abbas-and-Fayyad Vision
According to President Bush, in order to achieve a peaceful state called Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people, the following must happen:
Work to build the institutions of a modern democracy.
Strengthen the Palestinian security services so they can confront the terrorists and protect the innocent.
Set up competent ministries that deliver services without corruption.
Take steps to improve the economy and unleash the natural enterprise of the Palestinian people.
Ensure that Palestinian society operates under the rule of law. By following this path, Palestinians can reclaim their dignity and their future — and establish a state of their own.
They will find new life in ensuring that Palestinian society becomes law abiding citizens.
By supporting the reforms of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad, we can help them show the world what a Palestinian state would look — and act — like.
We can help them prove to the world, the region and Israel that a Palestinian state would be a partner — not a danger.
We can help them make clear to all Palestinians that rejecting violence is the surest path to security and a better life.
Help them demonstrate to the extremists once and for all that terror will have no place in a Palestinian state.
Perspective: This all sounds great in a perfect world. This vision has Fatah gaining a new start through democracy — but with its very tarnished past, this isn't likely. Are Fatah members going to lay down their guns and other weapons? Are they going to be able to offer services without corruption?
President Bush said only the Palestinians can decide which of these courses to pursue. History shows us not to expect much.
Violence is in their DNA. Look at the fighting between the Shiites and Sunnis throughout the Middle East. Plus there is infighting within the Shiite and Sunni sects in various countries.
President Bush's Never-Ending Monetary Democracy Inducement
Bush: First, we are strengthening our financial commitment:
Immediately after President Abbas expelled Hamas from the Palestinian government, the United States lifted financial restrictions on the Palestinian Authority that we had imposed.
This year, we will provide the Palestinians with more than $190 million in American assistance — including funds for humanitarian relief in Gaza.
To build on this support, I recently authorized the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to join in a program that will help generate $228 million in lending to Palestinian businesses.
Today, I announce our intention to make a direct contribution of $80 million to help Palestinians reform their security services — a vital effort they're undertaking with the guidance of American Gen. Keith Dayton.
We will work with Congress and partners around the world to provide additional resources, once a plan to build Palestinian institutions is in place. With all of this assistance, we are showing the Palestinian people that a commitment to peace leads to the generous support of the United States.
Bush: Second, we're strengthening our political and diplomatic commitment:
President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert sat down together on July 16 to discuss priorities and resolve issues. Secretary Rice and I have strongly supported these meetings, and she has worked with both parties to sketch out a "political horizon" for a Palestinian state.
Now we will intensify these efforts, with the goal of increasing the confidence of all parties in a two-state solution. And we will continue to deliver a firm message to Hamas that it must:
Stop Gaza from being a safe haven for attacks against Israel.
Accept the legitimate Palestinian government.
Permit humanitarian aid in Gaza, and dismantle militias.
Recognize Israel's right to exist.
Commit to all previous agreements between the parties.
Perspective: Based on history, these Bush contingencies are unachievable by Hamas. If Hamas fails, which is likely, it is possible that President Bush will lead Israel's Olmert into an agreement whereby Abbas will be allowed to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), further isolating Hamas in Gaza (for now). This may be what President Bush is doing, based on his financial inducements and his continued support of Abbas.
Bush: Third, we're strengthening our commitment to helping build the institutions of a Palestinian state:
Last month, former Prime Minister — British Prime Minister Tony Blair — agreed to take on a new role as Quartet representative.
In this post, he will coordinate international efforts to help the Palestinians establish the institutions of a strong and lasting free society — including effective governing structures, a sound financial system and the rule of law.
He will encourage young Palestinians to participate in the political process. And America will strongly support his work to help Palestinian leaders answer their people's desire to live in peace.
All the steps I've outlined are designed to lay the foundation for a successful Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza — a nation with functioning political institutions and capable security forces, and leaders who reject terror and violence. With the proper foundation, we can soon begin serious negotiations toward the creation of a Palestinian state.
These negotiations must resolve difficult questions and uphold clear principles. They must ensure that Israel is secure.
They must guarantee that a Palestinian state is viable and contiguous.
And they must lead to a territorial settlement, with mutually agreed borders reflecting previous lines and current realities, and mutually agreed adjustments.
America is prepared to lead discussions to address these issues, but they must be resolved by Palestinians and Israelis themselves.
Resolving these issues would help show Palestinians a clear way forward. And ultimately, it could lead to a final peace in the Middle East — a permanent end to the conflict and an agreement on all the issues, including refugees and Jerusalem.
Onus on Palestinians:
To make this prospect a reality, the Palestinian people must decide that they want a future of decency and hope — not a future of terror and death. They must match their words denouncing terror with action to combat terror. The Palestinian government must arrest terrorists, dismantle their infrastructure, and confiscate illegal weapons — as the road map requires.
They must work to stop attacks on Israel, and to free the Israeli soldier held hostage by extremists. And they must enforce the law without corruption, so they can earn the trust of their people, and of the world. Taking these steps will enable the Palestinians to have a state of their own. And there's only way to end the conflict, and nothing less is acceptable.
Bush stated Olmert/Israel must do the following:
Prime Minister Olmert must continue to release Palestinian tax revenues to the government of Prime Minister Fayyad.
Prime Minister Olmert has also made clear that Israel's future lies in developing areas like the Negev and Galilee — not in continuing occupation of the West Bank.
This is a reality that Prime Minister Sharon recognized, as well. So unauthorized outposts should be removed and settlement expansion ended.
At the same time, Israelis should find other practical ways to reduce their footprint without reducing their security — so they can help President Abbas improve economic and humanitarian conditions.
Perspective: President Bush said the Palestinians should be confident that the United States will never abandon its commitment to the security of Israel as a Jewish state and homeland for the Jewish people. How does moving Israel into indefensible borders make Israel more secure? This comment is an example of an idealistic approach to radical Muslims, acting as if they can be converted and transformed. It will be too late for the U.S. to respond if Palestinian and Syrian weapons start raining down on Israeli cities.
President Bush also said:
The international community must rise to the occasion and provide decisive support to responsible Palestinian leaders working for peace. One forum to deliver that support is the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee — a group chaired by Norway that includes the United States and Japan; the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund; and Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. Today I call for a session of this committee to gather soon, so that the world can back its words in real support for the new Palestinian government.
Perspective: Again, rewarding or attempting to appease Palestinian terror organizations will not bring peace.
Bush's International Meeting:
I will call together an international meeting this fall of 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 key participants in this meeting will be the Israelis, the Palestinians and their neighbors in the region.
Secretary Rice will chair the meeting. She and her counterparts will review the progress that has been made toward building Palestinian institutions. They will look for innovative and effective ways to support further reform. And they will provide diplomatic support for the parties in their bilateral discussions and negotiations, so that we can move forward on a successful path to a Palestinian state.
Perspective: This very likely will be a non-meeting if the participant's activities are strictly monitored.
Bush's Plan for the Arabs:
Arab states have a pivotal role to play, as well. They should show strong support for President Abbas's government and reject the violent extremism of Hamas. They should use their resources to provide much-needed assistance to the Palestinian people. Nations like Jordan and Egypt, which are natural gateways for Palestinian exports, should open up trade to create opportunities on both sides of the border.
Arab nations should also take an active part in promoting peace negotiations. Re-launching the Arab League initiative was a welcome first step. Now Arab nations should build on this initiative — by ending the fiction that Israel does not exist, stopping the incitement of hatred in their official media and sending cabinet-level visitors to Israel. With all these steps, today's Arab leaders can show themselves to be the equals of peacemakers like Anwar Sadat and King Hussein of Jordan.
Perspective: The Arab countries won't likely oblige — especially the Saudis, who brokered a peace deal between Hamas and Abbas only to have it shattered in the recent war. These countries don't like having Washington tell them how to manage their affairs especially when it has to do with Israel.
Bush on Middle East Extremists:
The conflict in Gaza and the West Bank today is a struggle between extremists and moderates.
And these are not the only places where the forces of radicalism and violence threaten freedom and peace. The struggle between extremists and moderates is also playing out in Lebanon — where Hezbollah and Syria and Iran are trying to destabilize the popularly elected government. The struggle is playing out in Afghanistan — where the Taliban and al Qaeda are trying to roll back democratic gains. And the struggle is playing out in Iraq — where al Qaeda, insurgents and militia are trying to defy the will of nearly 12 million Iraqis who voted for a free future.
Ceding any of these struggles to extremists would have deadly consequences for the region and the world. So in Gaza and the West Bank and beyond, the international community must stand with the brave men and women who are working for peace.
These are sectarian Muslim problems that exist in country after country. Over and over again, President Bush has demonstrated the belief that he can change 3,900 years of historical conflict and destructive behavior with promises of democracy and freedom.
Bush: On the Problem in the Middle East:
We must show that in the face of extremism and violence, we stand on the side of tolerance and decency. In the face of chaos and murder, we stand on the side of law and justice. And in the face of terror and cynicism and anger, we stand on the side of peace in the Holy Land.
Perspective: The Holy Land has never known lasting peace, and today there is sectarian chaos in many of the Middle Eastern countries, which can't be blamed on Israel.
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