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   JUNE-JULY 2001 -  Issue #136    


Bush & the Mideast: Clinton Redux?

Herbert Zweibon

George W. Bush, who during the election campaign went out of his way to insist that he would not repeat Bill Clinton's mistakes in the Middle East, appears to be well on his way to repeating them.

After chiding Clinton for becoming too involved in the details of Mideast diplomacy, Bush has bowed to the demands of the media and the pro-Arab policymakers at the State Department, and is becoming ever more deeply mired in that same black hole.

After asserting, shortly after the election, that he would end the Clinton policy of involving the CIA in political negotiations between Israel and Yasser Arafat, Bush is now using CIA director George Tenet as his chief Mideast negotiator. And Tenet, true to the spirit of Clinton's Mideast envoys, insists that Israel make concession after concession while overlooking and excusing Palestinian incitement and violence.

Despite repeatedly pledging his friendship for Israel, in his June 26 meeting with Sharon in Washington, President Bush pressured him to negotiate with Arafat under fire. In his press conference on the day of the meeting Bush declared that there had been enough "progress" in reducing the violence for Israel to return to negotiations with Arafat--even though there were over 200 attacks during the first three weeks of the "cease-fire." And of course the negotiations would be directed to implementing the Mitchell Report, the one sided-report (which Israel should have rejected out-of-hand as part and parcel of the failed appeasement policies of the Clinton administration) rewarding Arafat with dramatic new concessions for his nine months of violence. Even the Mitchell Report calls for an end to violence before negotiations: Bush has made the emendation that this is unnecessary in so far as the Arabs are concerned.

While Sharon publicly protested Bush's stance, Colin Powell was sent to Israel to keep up the pressure. Powell has told journalists he is "encouraging" Israel to "show restraint," i.e. he is pressing Israel to permit the Palestinians to murder Jews without any kind of response. This is even worse than Clinton's policy of tolerating Barak's occasional, if largely ineffectual, bombing of Palestinian Authority sites after major terrorist attacks. The media ignores the contradiction between Powell's advocacy of all-out force against U.S. enemies and his advocacy of no response at all by Israel to violence against its enemies.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher cannot even bring himself specifically to condemn Palestinian terror--he ritually invokes the morally despicable phrase "both sides" to describe those who are responsible for the ongoing bloodshed.

Bush's statements when he was a candidate, as well as those made during the first months after the election, offered hope that there would be a meaningful change from the Clinton Middle East policy. Those hopes have yet to materialize. Instead, Bush is repeating his predecessor's failed policy of pretending to see Palestinian "moderation" where there is none--and by doing so, ensuring that Arafat will continue the violence.

In a recent interview with Peggy Noonan in the in the Wall Street Journal, President Bush spoke of the dangerthat radical Islamic poses to the West. Yet Bush seems blind to the fact that in encouraging Arab violence and putting Israel's survival increasingly in jeopardy, he is, in effect, promoting Islamic fundamentalism.

"Meet the two George W. Bushes," Paul Gigot wrote recently in the Wall Steet Journal. "One is the president of high principle, the other is the ruthless political pragmatist. He's Dr. Reagan and Mr. Clinton." And nowhere is that phenomenon more apparent than in Bush's Middle East policy so far.

Herbert Zweibon is chairman of Americans For a Safe Israel.


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June-July 2001               - 1 -               Outpost


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