News analysis by Khalid Amayreh in East Jerusalem
Political commentators in this region and beyond are nearly unanimous in their estimates that President Bush’s highlighted visit to Palestine-Israel is going to fail to achieve substantive results in terms of peace-making.
Many observers point out that Bush’s understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is very superficial. For example, he said Israel should remain a “Jewish state,” but wouldn’t say what that meant in real terms and what he thought the fate of nearly 1.5 million Israeli Muslim and Christian citizens, who constitute nearly a quarter of Israel’s population, would be, especially in the long run.
Non-conformist reporters are always excluded from Bush’s press conferences. But If pressed on this issue, Bush would very likely exhaust his intellectual capacity by parroting the mendacious Israeli mantra that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state and that non-Jews who are Israeli citizens have nothing to fear.
However, if Bush were to be pressed further on whether he thought which should come first, the “Jewish” or “democratic” element of the state, the President would very much look really confused and be at loss as to how to relate to this matter.
This is because, Bush is a very naïve president who really doesn’t understand many things pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This simple-mindedness, coupled with a character trait that combines both ignorance and arrogance, was what made Bush invade two sovereign countries and commit crimes against humanity and then concoct all kinds of lies to cover up for his criminal adventures.
In occupied Jerusalem, Bush’s chummy chats with Israeli leaders underscored his weak intellectual ability. For example, he told Israeli Prime Minister that if he and Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas didn’t reach a peace settlement during the remaining period of Bush’s term of office, he would disengage himself from resolving the conflict.
Well, that was music for Israeli leaders, especially Mr. Olmert, who wouldn’t shed any tears in the likely case of a breakdown of talks with the PA leadership. Isn’t that Olmert’s undeclared dream? Because then the Israeli premier, reputed for his duplicitous mindset and dishonesty, would blame the helpless and effectively vanquished PA for the collapse of the talks and at the same time obtain a valuable excuse for continuing settlement expansion in the occupied territories.
Indeed, Bush’s conspicuous flaccidity with Israel on the settlement issue will only contribute to undermining his own declared vision of seeing two states, Palestine and Israel, living in peace side by side. The reason for that is simple. Israel will not remove any substantial number of settlements in the West Bank unless and until it comes under a severe and unprecedented pressure from Washington. However, the fact that the US is having an election year will make any American administration reluctant and wary of pressuring Israel on such a sensitive issue. More to the point, the American election season will embolden Israel and her powerful Jewish lobby, e.g. AIPAC, to resist with determination and confidence any such pressure in case it materialized.
For his part, Olmert, when confronted with the issue of “illegal settlement outposts” (as if other settlements were legitimate), promised Bush that this time he would “deal” with the issue.
Olmert is a pathological liar as he had promised numerous times to remove these outposts, but to no avail. The same thing can be said about Israeli procrastination with regard to the removal of hundreds of Nazi-like roadblocks and checkpoints throughout the West Bank, which render normal life and normal economic activities nearly impossible.
Olmert may well deploy some troops to some isolated outposts in order to stage the appearance of a showdown with the die-hard messianic settlers.
However, the Israeli premier would eventually resort to stalling tactics until Bush leaves office or a new government is installed in Israel.
In short, the behavior of the Israeli government and the Bush administration suggest there is absolutely nothing new in their respective positions on the Palestinian issue.
On Thursday, Bush traveled to Ramallah to meet with Abbas and his aides, probably to thank them for persecuting Hamas in the West Bank and for coming to terms with Israeli settlement expansion as well as showing understanding toward Israeli military incursions in Palestinian population centers.
Bush might also speak tough words to Abbas, like telling him that he will have to choose “statehood” or “chaos.”
Well, statehood according to whom and to whose standards? Israel’s standards?
There is no doubt that this is exactly what Bush has in mind. There is also no doubt that a statehood in accordance with Israeli standards would put Abbas and the Palestinian people on a bloody collision course, which would create chaos, turbulence, and a lot of bloodshed.
Palestinians, even if bribed with seven billion dollars, will not trade their inalienable rights for a state that has a form but lacks substance.