What would have happened if before the prime minister decided to postpone his trip to Washington, President George Bush had announced that in light of the rising tide of violence from one side and settlement expansion from the other, he saw no point to an eighth meeting with Ariel Sharon? Imagine if Bush, taking seriously Silvan Shalom's warning that the road map will shorten the life of the government, were to drop his interest in the entire matter. In other words, an end to comments and corrections to the plan, the Quartet disperses, Assistant Secretary of State William Burns stops coming and legal adviser Dov Weisglass stops going. You don't want peace? No need. Want to commit suicide? Be my guest. Just don't complain to us.
Unfortunately, there's no such chance. Bush won't demand that Sharon force a government decision on the road map. The president won't inform the prime minister that if the decision is negative, Israel will have to deal with the Hamas suicide bombers on its own. Instead, the White House will just reschedule the eighth meeting.
Some might say it's better to have a single match burning at the end of the tunnel than to be total darkness, in other words, if American involvement won't help, it won't hurt either. But the test of results shows that American diplomacy has not been helping for the last two years. Even the argument that a little bit of activity is better than total paralysis, needs to be proved.
The expectation that any minute now the great American uncle will turn his attention away from the war in Iraq to impose the road map upon us, is blinding people from seeing the grim reality. Virtual diplomatic activity has taken the place of local forces for peace. And at the same time, it gives the Israeli and Palestinian extremists time to cook up their crazed brews.
The profile of American involvement in the region has not changed between the time former senator George Mitchell handed in his report in the spring of 2002 and Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer handed over the road map in the spring of 2003. Mitchell ruled that "the Israeli government must freeze all settlement construction, including natural growth of settlements."
The U.S. did not demand a formal response from Sharon to the Mitchell document, nor did it lift a finger against the feverish construction activity in the settlements. That's why both inside Israel and throughout the world, the impression was that the Israeli government had accepted Mitchell and company's far-reaching verdict that "the security cooperation to which the Israeli government aspires cannot take place simultaneously with the settlement activity." The seeming adoption of the Mitchell Report gave Sharon the generous shelter of the Labor Party to reoccupy the territories.
The negotiations over the corrections to the road map enables the prime minister to put the National Union's disciples of transfer to his right in the government and Shinui's supporters of Peace Now to his left. Justice Minister Yosef Lapid said over the weekend to Yedioth Ahronoth that if the government rejects the road map, his party will return to the opposition. But the government won't reject the road map - nor accept it. What's the hurry? If the president himself is ready to continue negotiating Sharon's corrections, who are we to push the government? Meanwhile, the Hamas will kill more Israelis, the settlers will put up more outposts, and the politicians will say that Abu Mazen is no partner.
Nations that bleed each other for decades are not allowed to complain about others who don't do more than they themselves do for the sake of peace. Yes, one can regret that the leader of the most powerful country in the world doesn't keep his promise to exploit the momentum of victory in Iraq to make a new order for the region. A politician has the right to decide which interests are more important to his country than others. He can even prefer narrow electoral interests over broad strategic ones. But no leader, especially not a president who proudly claims the title "the American president most loyal to the state of Israel," has the right to deceive us. If he refuses to jump into the water, Bush should stop making waves.
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