It never was President Bush's dream to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the contrary, since it had been President Clinton's "baby" and everything connected to Clinton is treif as far as Bush is concerned, it was clear from the beginning that he would stay away from the region.
The wealth of the English language makes it possible to attach serious and respectable terms to inactivity. Thus, for example, the decision not to play an active role in finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is called "conflict management." In effect, the administration's decision says that as long as the Israelis and Palestinians kill each other at "low intensity," they can be allowed to go on bleeding. If the conflict intensifies, something has to be declared (like the pathetic "Bush vision" of June 2002, or the road map, which was delivered to the sides in April 2003 without any of its initiators or recipients treating it seriously).
Visitors to Washington nowadays cannot get free of the feeling that the administration is stewing in deep depression and wants to be left alone in its domestic political arena, without being troubled by international problems. The hurricane in the south exposed an administration that is incapable of handling it citizens' existential issues and largely abandons the weak and the poor. The blood of American soldiers and civilians continues to be spilled in Iraq, and the huge budget deficit created by President Bush, who inherited a budget without a deficit from Clinton, also contributes to the sense of American weakness - particularly since a large proportion of American foreign debt consists of U.S. bonds held by the Chinese.
Together with the surrealistic affair of the exposure of the CIA agent, it's a series of constant blows to the president and his administration. Pollsters swear that if Bush were to run against an anonymous Democrat right now, he would be roundly defeated. There is broad public agreement that Bush is already a lame duck, more than three years before the end of his time in office.
Less than three years ago, New York Times star columnist Thomas Friedman proposed a test for the success of the war in Iraq: if the price of a barrel of oil, which was then less than $30, drops to $6, it means there was a terrific victory, and if it rises above $60, it means defeat. Friedman, who supported the war, has not since mentioned the scale that he invented but even without it, the overall feeling is that the U.S. has lost a large part of its influence as a superpower. The awakening of the Chinese giant creates a feeling that someone else is going to take the lead in the near future.
The situation in Iraq intensifies the feeling that Bush is a lame duck, because nearly the entire U.S. Army is now pinned down there, and the result is that nobody takes American threats of military action against Syria or Iran seriously.
As for us, immediately after Bush was elected to his second term, there were those around him who said that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would take top priority in the president's foreign policy and that his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice would in effect become a special envoy to the Middle East. Now it is clear that the domestic scandals and the failure in Iraq have distanced the administration so far from us that it doesn't even notice if we're on fire.
The sole superpower in the world has for some time been running a policy of ducking responsibility. The American vision is based on the nonsensical notion of turning Gaza into a model of regional success like Singapore or Hong Kong, and the secretary of state shows up to deal with the evacuation of the rubble of the settlements of Gush Katif or the dramatic issue of the technical arrangements for the Rafah crossing.
Those who want to advance the peace process and know - unlike Sharon - that time is working against the sane in this region, must understand that there is no chance for a Pax Americana. The only formula for a solution is "do it yourself."
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