Breathing Life Into Bush's Vision

Political leaders at the start of their careers try to shake off the legacy of their predecessors and focus on showing independence. This tendency is particularly striking with the new American president, who represents a completely different political worldview than George W. Bush. Anyone who held life dear did not dare mention the name Bill Clinton within Bush's hearing range. This was also a reason the Clinton peace initiative of December 2000 had no chance of enjoying the Bush administration's support. It's also the psycho-political background recommended for assessing Barack Obama's comments on the road map and Annapolis declaration.

The Democratic president did not only publicly adopt the documents entirely associated with the Bush administration, he promised to breathe life into them during his tenure at the White House. We can assume Obama knows that Bush promised to fulfill the vision of two states for two peoples while he was president. Perhaps this is why Obama announced that what Bush considered a vision, he considers a realistic goal.

While Bush blended the Arab peace initiative into the road map, to throw Saudi Arabia a bone, Obama is making it one of the pillars of his Middle East policy. By the way, few people noticed the important note attached to the statement summing up the Arab League summit in Doha late last month. It said Libya has reservations about the Arab peace initiative because it does not mention the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

Bush made do with distributing documents and holding conferences, but Obama says he will push forward "actively." Indeed, during his first day as president, Obama did what Bush did not in eight years in office: He appointed a presidential envoy of substance in the form of George Mitchell and dispatched him immediately to Middle East capitals.

Contrary to the assessments and hopes of the new leadership in Israel, domestic difficulties did not distract the new administration from foreign affairs. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was quick to make a first trip to Jerusalem, Mitchell is busy planning his second, and in May Obama will host Benjamin Netanyahu in the White House. In early June, Air Force One will land in Tel Aviv.

A president sustaining significant criticism for the way he's managing the economic crisis would not become embroiled in a Middle East crisis in order to go home empty handed. If Obama did not really intend to press forth with a two-states-for-two-peoples solution (in his speech, he did not demand that the Palestinians recognize the Jewish state), he would not make statements that make Netanyahu and some Democratic donors in the Jewish-American community uneasy.