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March 06, 2003

Bush doesn't intend to pressure Israel on concessions

Asia Times comments on the "roadmap" and concludes that it is dead.
[...]In a major address last Wednesday, Bush aligned US policy even more closely with the right-wing Likud Party of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by, for the first time, conditioning an end to Jewish settlement activity in the occupied territories on progress in a new peace process. Since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Washington had insisted - largely ineffectively - that Israel halt all settlement activity unilaterally and unconditionally.

"This is a complete alignment of the president along the lines of Likud principles," according to Rashid Khalidi, an historian and Middle East specialist at the University of Chicago. "It's the most important shift in US policy since the 1967 war. It's really major."

The fact that Bush delivered the address before the American Enterprise Institute, the hub of a very effective network of pro-Likud organizations in Washington, was also significant. Members of the audience included not only prominent neoconservatives who have argued for years that Israel has a right to settle anywhere in the occupied territories, but also several who had prepared a memorandum for then Likud prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu six years ago that called for a regional strategy, including the removal of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, a "complete break" with the Oslo peace process and steps to "secure the realm" by building a new strategic axis in the Middle East consisting of Israel, Turkey, Jordan and a pro-Western government in Baghdad

"This administration has about as much interest in the road map seeing the light of day as it does in holding bilateral talks with North Korea," one official said this week. A similar conclusion appears to have been reached in Israel itself, where Sharon has already rejected the road map out of hand. "The Quartet is nothing. Don't take it seriously," he told Newsweek magazine just before the elections. "I don't think the United States takes it seriously." MORE