Thursday, June 27, 2002

I'm really amazed by the amount of interesting stuff written about Bush's speech. I don't have time to read it all.

Michael Kelly starts his article in the Washington Post by making some predictions:
a. Yasser Arafat will be gone as the leader of the Palestinian Authority within a year -- probably within six months.

b. The Palestinians will elect leaders...The peace process will begin anew, with some (fragile) hope.

c. Israel and the United States will support Palestinian state. Israel will make major concessions. The Palestinian people and important Arab states will support the process.

d. Palestine and Iraq will be democratic states.

So, I'm reading this stuff and I'm thinking of my very own Bish's famous predictions straight after the Gulf War, boldly made when we were still jumping in response to loud noises (fearing they were the beginning of an air-raid siren). In those days I still thought he could never err. He then stated that Saddam Hussein would be dead within a year, and that we would have peace with the Palestinians within five years. Well, we actually thought he'd got the second prediction right for a while. But he never lived down the Saddam Hussein thing. To this day, whenever he repeats his famous mantra: "Me? I never make mistakes!" our daughters sing out "Saddam Hussein!" (they weren't actually around at the time - our eldest is a "war baby" - but fear you not I made sure to fill them in).

Back to Mr. Kelly's predictions - you know, I wish, I really do, with all my heart, that it will happen just as he predicts. But my ability to believe the unlikely (which was at it's peak during the euphoric early "Oslo years") is sadly eroded these days. It just doesn't seem at all realistic.

Then I continued the article to the part were he throws the bombshell (well it was for me anyway):

"Bush has set the Palestinian issue within the context of a larger approach that is fundamentally, historically radical: a rejection of decades of policy, indeed a rejection of the entire philosophy of Middle East diplomacy.

This philosophy has rested on a willingness to accept a U.S. role as a player in a running fraud. In the interests of "stability" and cheap oil and concessions to American military needs, the United States chose to recognize all regimes (except those such as Iran, Libya and Iraq who openly attacked us or the regional status quo) as more or less legitimate. Successive American administrations looked the other way as regimes established gangster states, police states, fascist theocracies; as they erected democracies that were dictatorships; as they looted and tortured and killed vast numbers of their own; as they provided crucial territorial, financial and logistical support to terrorists who murdered Americans. We pretended that these regimes were honorable and that we could do honorable business with them.

The Oslo peace process, which ended in a self-made disaster, was the perfect fruit of this tree. The administrations of Bill Clinton and Yitzhak Rabin knew of course that Arafat was wholly duplicitous, wholly incompetent and a delusional murderous schemer. They knew his people knew this. They knew he was lying when he pretended to want a workable peace. They knew his people knew this too. Yet they treated him as an honest man upon whom could be built a decent peace and a decent state.

To the Palestinians, this said that the Americans were stupid and weak. It also said that they were corrupt. As they had in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, the freedom-trumpeting Americans were happy to support tyrannies whenever it suited Washington's interests. And so they were doubly worthy of contempt."

Reading this gives me hope that maybe the predictions have a chance. That is, if Bush can see this through.

Another interesting article is by Patrick Bishop, in the British Daily Telegraph. I'm afraid it requires registration. This guy really seems to understand the ins and outs of Palestinian politics, if that's the correct term for what George F. Will quaintly calls a "thugocracy". He explains Arafat's amazing survival instinct and how he will go about staying in power against all odds. Again.

Ah, but Mr. Bishop has hope: "Despite the initial expressions of solidarity, it is possible that Arafat's grip on Palestine might yet be loosened. Palestinians have, until now, accepted the idea that suffering is their most potent weapon. Their victimhood has gained them international attention and sympathy, and brought about near-universal recognition of their right to statehood. But the return on their pain is dwindling. The suicide bomber phenomenon has created a wave of feeling for the Israelis and altered the perception that the Palestinians are suffering uniquely.

[...] The lack of opposition to the Israeli re-occupation of West Bank towns this week in reaction to the latest suicide bombs was perhaps a sign that exhaustion is setting in."

It's worth taking the time to register and read the whole thing.