The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Tuesday, June 25, 2002  

From Washington, New York, and London

“YESTERDAY’S speech left much to be desired. Mr. Bush does not seem to expect anything immediately from the Israelis, and he appeared to rule out much improvement in the lives of Palestinians until Yasir Arafat is ousted….

“[M]aking Mr. Arafat’s fate the be-all and end-all of the Mideast peace process makes him look far too significant, and makes it all the harder for the Palestinians themselves to show him the door….Mr. Bush seemed to be telling Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that he is free to reoccupy the entire West Bank until a new, democratic Palestine emerges. How the Palestinians can be expected to carry out elections or reform themselves while in a total lockdown by the Israeli military remains something of a mystery.

“In broad terms, Mr. Bush told Israel the right things….But the president set no timetable. This means that settler leaders and military hard-liners, including those in the government, may take this waiting period to grab all they can and establish ‘facts on the ground.’” -- Editorial, New York Times


“AFTER months of fits and starts, President Bush yesterday distilled his Middle East policy to a simple proposition: Peace depends almost entirely on the Palestinians.

“Bush made no mention of an international conference. He did not repeat his demand for an immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces, which shortly before Bush spoke announced they were headed into Gaza….

“[W]hile Bush suggested a three-year timetable for the establishment of a Palestinian state, the clock doesn’t start ticking until Palestinians elect new leaders and build new political, economic and security institutions. And Bush made the creation of a Palestinian state conditional to a series of tough yardsticks that could be impossible to achieve….

“[I]n other ways, the speech represented a purposeful abandonment of neutrality by the administration, which now has largely adopted the stance of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that Arafat is no longer relevant to the peace process, and that security and political reform must precede negotiations about a Palestinian state….

“[B]y writing Arafat out of the picture, Bush may have left Arafat no incentive to cooperate -- and Bush has yet to explain whom the United States or Israel would negotiate with in the coming months. Currently, there is no functioning Palestinian government that can stop the terrorist attacks or replace the Israeli army, and there is no leadership that has the authority or respect to negotiate with Israel.” -- Glenn Kessler, Washington Post


“BEYOND Washington’s focus on the removal of Mr. Arafat, the U.S. president’s vision went no further last night than a vague promise of a provisional Palestinian state, to be redeemed within three years -- by which time Mr. Bush may no longer be in the White House.

“He held out no details on the borders of the state that will emerge three years from now, the location of its capital, or the future of millions of Palestinian refugees -- all vital concerns for the people of the West Bank and Gaza.

“Mr. Bush also freed Mr. Sharon of his few remaining constraints. While Israel does not yet have licence to expel Mr. Arafat -- as Mr. Sharon’s hardline allies demand -- after last night’s speech that day may not be far off.

“In addition, Mr. Sharon was handed additional pretexts to delay a withdrawal from Palestinian lands, or the reopening of negotiations with the Palestinians. As Mr Bush made clear, Mr. Sharon is now within his rights to demand not only an end to Palestinian violence, but a total overhaul of the judiciary in the West Bank or Gaza, before embarking on peace talks.” -- Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian


“GEORGE BUSH finally gave his long-awaited speech on the Israel-Palestinian conflict last night. The document had created acrimonious divisions between the administration’s hawks and the State Department. The hawks won.

“There was little in the speech that looked like a remedy to a conflict that has claimed more than 2,000 lives, and appears to be getting steadily worse….

“There was little to suggest this speech will make much difference to the nightmare on the ground. Mr. Bush talked of the need for Israel to withdraw to the positions before the start of the intifada in late September. But the withdrawal should be made ‘as we make progress toward security.’ One suicide bomber attack would allow Israel to argue that progress has not been made.

“Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories must end but this should be ‘consistent with the recommendations of the Mitchell report,’ he said. This, too, ensures that Israel can stall -- as it long ago re-cast the recommendations to include a timeline….

“Exactly where the new leaders will come from is not clear. Elections today would deliver a strong showing for Hamas, classed by the U.S. as terrorist.” -- Phil Reeves, The Independent


“TRANSLATION: Yasser Arafat and his blood-drenched henchmen must go. Indeed, Bush's speech was a barely camouflaged call for a coup d’etat against the PLO leader [sic], and his replacement by a leadership ‘not compromised by terror.’

“Which likely also explains Israel’s new, aggressive campaign to destroy the Hamas infrastructure and its latest military offensive, which has once again penned Arafat in his compound -- and which Bush endorsed.” -- Editorial, New York Post

The Rittenhouse Review | Copyright 2002-2006 | PERMALINK |