Friday, March 14, 2003

AP is reporting: "President Bush announced Friday that he would unveil his long-sought ``road map'' for Middle East peace once a new Palestinian prime minister with real governing authority takes office."Apparently someone got through to Bush that it might be a good idea to speak about the Palestinians to prop up the flagging international support (did I just say support?) for the Iraq adventure.

Two things in what Bush said appeared to be new: (1) He implicitly suggested the US would resume a dialogue with a new Arafat-appointed prime minister (no doubt Mahmoud Abbas), when the US administration had, basically, rejected all talks with the Palestinians while Arafat was still in power. And (2), Bush remarked: "The government of Israel, as the terror threat is removed and security improves, must take concrete steps to support the emergence of a viable and credible Palestinian state and to work as quickly as possible (my italics) toward a final status agreement." That seemed to speed up the original timetable, which took several years.

Bush was apparently dozing off a year ago when the Arab League held a historic summit in Beirut. That's because he also remarked: "And the Arab states must oppose terrorism, support the emergence of a peaceful and democratic Palestine and state clearly that they will live in peace with Israel." They did just that in Beirut (or almost--they didn't call for a democratic Palestinian state), but no one noticed--the one time everybody should have.

A footnote on Abbas. According to the Palestinian official Abu Daoud, it was Abbas who was the financier of the Munich hostage takeover, an operation that Abu Daoud planned. For someone like me who considers that a war criminal like Ariel Sharon must, nevertheless, be accepted as an interlocutor by the Palestinians, Abbas' past (if Abu Daoud is correct) again suggests how much a Palestinian-Israeli peace will be built on a hefty (if judicious) dose of amnesia.

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