US President has nothing new to offer Middle East

Chris Gelken

Since lame duck President George W. Bush arrived in Israel he has offered little more than rhetoric in his effort to jump-start the long stalled Middle East peace process and land a last gasp foreign policy success for himself.

No new initiatives have been introduced, just empty platitudes of "time to seize this historic opportunity" and "both sides have the willingness to move forward."

In an interview with PressTV, Washington-based author and political analyst, Atef Jawad gives his take Bush's 11th hour attempt to leave a foreign policy "legacy."

PressTV: Has the President brought anything new to the table to give new life to the peace process?

Jawad: No, I don't think so. The President may have the best of intentions, but he doesn't have enough time to get anything done, and he is also undercutting his own efforts.

Let me just talk about three points briefly to illustrate how he is undermining his own peace plan.

Lets talk about his reference to Israel as being a Jewish State. By doing so, by giving Israel the right to claim that it is a Jewish State, the President is undercutting his own efforts in two ways.

Number one, he is pre-judging the right of return for millions of Palestinians, and the right of return,. as we all know, is one of the core issues that needs to be negotiated, not pre-judged.

But also by referring to Israel as being a Jewish State he is basically giving everybody, every religious group on Earth the right to claim a religious state of its own.

So can the President then pick and choose? Can he say okay, the Jews must have a Jewish State, but the Muslims cannot have an Islamic State, the Christians cannot have a Christian State?

He cannot pick and choose.

And number two is the roadmap, President Bush's own roadmap that calls on Israel to freeze settlement activity.

Israel is circumventing the roadmap by not building new settlements, but just expanding existing ones.

Now the president is silent about that, and yes he did urge Israel to remove the so-called wildcat outposts. These are tiny encampments. But he left the criticism of Israel's settlement activity to his Secretary of State. But the President, on location, meeting with Israelis, kept silent about that.

Then finally, the third and last thing. The fact that Israeli Prime Minister Olmert says there will be no peace agreement with the Palestinians as long as there are rockets being launched at Israel. Violence and terrorism, he said, must be stopped everywhere in the Palestinian territories.

Now we are going in a vicious circle. You must have all the Palestinians involved. Peace cannot endure between Israel and just 50 percent of the Palestinians. You have to have peace between Israel, and the entire Palestinian population both on the West Bank and Gaza.

Gaza is not included, so how can you have peace, how can you stop violence?

PressTV: President Bush said he would not dictate what the new Palestinian entity would look like or how it was composed. That's a bit ironic don't you think considering the current siege of Gaza because people there had the temerity to elect a Hamas government?

Jawad: I would take it a little further, because the President - the one who is not planning to dictate any settlement - knows, as we all know, that Palestinians and Israelis left on their own will get nowhere. So unless an honest broker comes in to push both parties to try to reach a just a comprehensive peace, they won't get anything done.

But the President has ignored the peace process for seven years. Now that he's a lame duck, he can't get anything done domestically,.now its time for him to look overseas to try to boost his foreign policy record.

PressTV: One of the stated aims of his Middle East tour was to drum up support among Arab leaders to isolate Iran. How much success do you think he will achieve?

Jawad: Unfortunately there was the recent incident between the Iranian boats and the three U.S. warships in the Straits of Hormuz.

Certainly the President is going to use this in his talks with Arab leaders to show them further that Iran is a threat.

But we all know, of course, that Bush's own intelligence agencies told them that the threat from Iran was not real, and that whatever nuclear program Iran had, they stopped it back in 2003.

But the President will go to Arab leaders now and point out what happened in the Straits of Hormuz and try to use that as a case to enhance his argument that Iran is a threat to the region.

* Article based on television interview conducted by author and first broadcast on PressTV on Thursday, January 10th, 2008