U.S. Presidents and the drive for Middle East peace
By Ray Hanania
What is it about Presidents who wait until the last minute to try and achieve peace in the Middle East? President George W. Bush is in Jerusalem meeting with Israelis and Palestinians to help nudge the latest generation of the “peace process” along. Why does this all sound so familiar? Bush is on the last leg of a presidential career. His final year. And all of a sudden, he wants to do all he can to bring about peace in the Middle East between Palestinians and Israelis.
I recognize that peace between Palestinians and Israelis is the Holy Grail of achievements for any American politician, despite all its political land mines and the wolf pack of lobbyists who nip and tear at anything remotely challenging to their vision of what needs to be done.
But why always so late?
It has to be ego, I think.
Former President Bill Clinton did the exact same thing eight years ago. The differences between Bush and Clinton are stark, of course.
Clinton spent his entire term in office pursuing the elusive achievement. But he made a massive push in the last few months during the twilight of his administration, just before leaving office.
Bush turned his back on Middle East peace from the day he stepped into office. Some might argue that he didn’t want to waste his time on a Gordian Knot so difficult that peace is impossible, but others might argue that he was so naïve and inexperienced he did not recognize how important the Middle East issues are on the American people.
He learned nine months later when Middle East terrorists led by Osama Bin Laden struck America on Sept. 11, 2001.
Yet, suddenly Bush is invigorated and wants to bring about peace?
All of a sudden?
I guess it is always better late than never. And I have to say that although Clinton was genuine in his desire for peace, Bush is being a little more even handed than Clinton.
In the final months of his push for peace, Clinton placed a pro-Israel activist, Dennis Ross, at the helm of the mission. Ross spent much of his time taking Israeli proposals at the Camp David meeting between Yasir Arafat and Ehud Barak, and presented them to the Palestinians as “American” ideas.
Clinton’s actions suggested the real motive was to lock in Jewish American support and votes for his wife, Hillary, who became a New York senator and is now in a cut-throat contest to become the Democratic nominee for President.
What’s in it form Bush?
Both men are deeply religious in different ways. Clinton more southern and passive in his Christian religion and Bush more conservative evangelist in his own reverence.
Yet what we have to be cynical at these times of pomp and ceremony when politicians are about ready to leave office.
Are they really chasing the elusive peace because they hope that by chance – like winning a lottery – they just might succeed and secure for themselves the greatest accolades in modern history?
Clinton wanted to leave office with a crown of achievement, although his selfish push in late 2000 before leaving office left the Middle East in a crown of thorns that turned into one of the worst periods of relations between Palestinians and Israelis in their tragic and shared history.
Is that what Bush wants? To leave office with some major achievement of substance? Is that all that Middle East peace is worth to the world, a trophy on some mantel of a presidential library, and a chapter in history books?
I hope Bush is successful. But it will take more than a president, even one who makes the daring trip to personally visit the Middle East as Bush is doing right now.
What Palestinians and Israelis need to achieve peace is a fair American president with a firm hand. You can’t leave it up to the two sides because the two sides have proven they won’t do it themselves.
President Bush needs to impose a peace, a peace agreement we all already know will consist of two-states, sharing Jerusalem, some apologies on both sides, compensation (mainly American tax dollars, of course) and a determination that can only come from inevitability that there is no way to avoid it.
Make it happen, Mr. President.
The world needs it. America needs it. And if it transforms your contentious seven years in office into something that dreams are made of, you would deserve it.