On a Divine Mission

Only after the Palestinian people undergo a conceptual, ideological and institutional conversion will it be possible to establish a Palestinian state that will exist alongside Israel in peace and prosperity.

The person who is waking up this morning in the presidential suite of the King David Hotel is a God-fearing man. A man who believes that a hidden hand brought him from Texas to the presidency in order to carry out a Divine mission. The president cannot say so publicly, but since September 11, 2001 it has been clear to him that the role assigned him is both historic and religious: to save America from the new barbarians; to defend the West from the Huns who are attacking it from the East.

Therefore, when George W. Bush gets out of bed this morning and approaches the large window that overlooks the wall of the Old City he really is excited. The believing Christian in him sees the city of God, whereas the man-with-a-mission in him sees the place where East meets West. The place where civilizations clash. The president sees the frontier line of democracy. The border of liberty.

Laura is in Washington, Condi is in the fitness room. Even Ehud may not have called yet. So that when the man from Texas looks at the golden halo of the Dome of the Rock, he has some time to think about everything that lies to the east of the King David Hotel: The Israeli occupation, Palestinian extremism, Arab dysfunction and Islamic zealotry, the struggle for Iraq and the threat of Iran, the disquiet in Afghanistan and the danger embodied in Pakistan. And the feeling that is spreading in the East that the West is in retreat. The increasing assessment that the 21st-century Crusades are about to end in defeat.

The man standing at the window this morning is a very lonely man. He is vilified in his own country and almost a leper in the international community. The America that he tried to save has turned against him, and the West that he wanted to defend is dismissive of him. But George W. Bush is not deterred, nor does he bend to public opinion, to the media and to trendy thinging.

Unlike some of his friends, he is not an opportunist who changes his stripes. He conducts his dialogue with history and with God. And since he is a man of moral clarity and simple principles and character, he does not tend to give in. Even when the current turns against him he remains faithful to his truth.

George Bush defined his truth concerning the Holy Land on June 24, 2002. The political speech he delivered that day was the most important of all his speeches. The statement he made in that speech was the most penetrating international statement about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This was the essence of that statement: The solution to the 100-year-old conflict is a two-state solution, but before the two-state solution is implemented a Palestinian conversion must take place. Only after the Palestinian people undergo a conceptual, ideological and institutional conversion will it be possible to establish a Palestinian state that will exist alongside Israel in peace and prosperity.

So when President Bush looks at Jerusalem this morning, the question he should ask himself is whether he has remained faithful to his truth. The question that he should ask himself is whether the present diplomatic course does not contradict his own vision. And whether it is reasonable to expect that during 2008 the Palestinians will undergo the profound reform needed. And what the consequences would be of establishing an immature Palestinian state before the Palestinian conversion is completed. And whether there isn't a danger that a virtual diplomatic process divorced from reality will distance peace instead of bringing it closer.

The region spread out beyond the swimming pool of the King David Hotel is a gloomy one. President Bush can be proud of the achievements of recent months in Iraq, but he cannot deceive himself. The zealots still have the momentum, the moderates are finding it difficult to cooperate. Egypt and Saudi Arabia are putting out feelers toward Iran, Abu Mazen and Salam Fayyad are walking on thin ice. In this state of affairs, the United States does not have the safety margins for another mistake such as the one that brought Hamas to power. A mistake of that kind will not only endanger the future of the State of Israel, it will endanger the ability of Western civilization to confront the forces of September 11, 2001.

The right formula is the Bush vision. To act with determination in order to create Palestinian capability before precisely defining the borders of the Palestinian territory. To promote Paris before devoting ourselves to Annapolis. To help the Palestinians bring about their conversion rather than pretending that the conversion has already taken place. In short: to return to George W. Bush's fundamental truths.

Many people mock President Bush. But the president who is descending from the presidential suite of the King David Hotel this morning is a courageous man. A man with a mission. Even when he erred, he did so because he was trying to deal with a challenge that others had evaded. But now, on his way to Bethlehem, the Church of the Beautitudes and Capernaum, Bush must be true to himself. He must leave a seal of truth in the Holy Land.