“Bush condemns Jerusalem bombing ‘in strongest possible terms'” (MSNBC TV). Well of course he does. But he shouldn’t have facilitated the attack by criticizing Israel in a way that made clear he regards cutting a deal as the main goal of his efforts. He shouldn’t have criticized Israel for defending itself — doing on a small scale what the U.S. has done on a large one. He shouldn’t have put the screws on Israel while publicly overlooking continued Arab (except maybe Jordanian) hostility to Israel and sympathy for Palestinian terrorism. He shouldn’t have tolerated the Palestinian leadership’s good-cop/bad-cop game. His inconsistency signals weakness, and it’s no surprise under the circumstances that the Palestinians continue to make terror attacks. For them, it pays.
Bush is repeating Clinton’s “peace process” blunder. He is more honest, reliable, and determined than Clinton was, but resolve alone can’t overcome faulty logic and perverse incentives. He has recreated a familiar situation: we pressure one side to make territorial concessions whenever the “peace process” bogs down; meanwhile the other side — assumed to be irresponsible-but-trying-hard — is held to a lower standard and bears little or no political cost for inciting and carrying out violent attacks. Predictably these attacks bog down the “process” and give the irresponsible side a negotiating advantage. It therefore shouldn’t surprise us that the violence continues. No deal will succeed until either Israel crushes the Palestinians militarily, which we won’t allow, or the Palestinians decide they have more to gain by peace than war. They aren’t even close to being there yet. Bush should do a U-turn on his “roadmap.”
Some governments are hopeless and not worth making deals with. We understood this about Iraq but for some reason ignore the obvious with regard to the Palestinian Authority. We are wishing and hoping that Arafat is no longer in control. Unfortunately, it’s clear by now that even if Arafat is no longer driving events, whoever is in charge is equally bad. The U.S., instead of leaning on Israel, which has already made a substantial preemptive concession by agreeing to shut down “settlements,” should be working harder to establish a reasonable government in the Palestinian territories. Only after this task is accomplished does an Israeli-Palestinian deal begin to make sense (just as no U.S.-Iraq deal was conceivable while Saddam Hussein was still in power). Bush should show more of his famous patience in dealing with these matters, instead of behaving like the immature Clinton who was impelled to go for a deal — any deal.
Val has some thoughts.
David Warren sees things plain.
UPDATE: Aaron comments (see the top comment).