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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

March 04, 2003

Bush on Israel: Heartburn for All

Daniel Pipes has this to say on Bush. I had not thought about this but Pipes seems right on target
Consistency and predictability are core strengths of George W. Bush as a politician. Be the issue domestic (taxes, education) or foreign (terrorism, Iraq), once he settles on a policy he sticks with it. There is no ambiguity, no guessing what his real position might be, no despair at interpreting contradictions. Even his detractors never complain about "Tricky George" or "Slick Bush."

But there is one exception to this pattern. And - couldn't you have predicted it? - the topic is the Arab-Israeli conflict. Here, Bush not only seems unable to make up his mind, but he oscillates between two quite contrary views.

For example, at the height of the Palestinian assault against Israel last April, the president delivered a major address that contained within it a flagrant contradiction.

* He began by slamming Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority (PA) for its terrorism against Israelis, and he fingered several groups, one of them (Al-Aqsa Brigades) under Arafat's control, attempting to destroy Israel. In this spirit, not surprisingly, Bush approved of Israeli efforts at self-protection, saying that "America recognizes Israel's right to defend itself from terror."

* Then, in concluding the speech, he drew policy conclusions at odds with this analysis. The president asked Palestinian leaders to make some nominal gestures to prove they are "truly on the side of peace," then demanded that Israel's government reciprocate with four giant steps (halt its military efforts, withdraw from areas it had recently occupied, cease civilian construction in the occupied territories and help build a viable Palestinian state).

In sum, Bush theoretically backed Israel and condemned Arafat while practically he backed Arafat and punished Israel. All this left most observers stumped. [more]