Bush to Middle East: quiet abandonment

This was a small article on the Bush administration abandoning a promise to push forward the Peace Process in Israel/Palestine. With all the other Iraq stirrings, this tidbit will fly under the radar. Unfortunately, I think it will come back to haunt us.

Israel, North Korea,… it’s much easier to ignore the sticky problems. We’ve got Saddam, we’ll deal with that, because we think we can solve it.

http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/story.hts/world/1810704



March 9, 2003, 10:31AM
Bush refuses to offer plan for Mideast

By STEVEN R. WEISMAN
New York Times

In a sharp rebuff to European allies, Russia and the United Nations, the Bush administration has decided not to put forth a plan for a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians until after the crisis in Iraq is resolved, administration officials say.

Negotiations aimed at drafting a three-year-long “road map” leading to the creation of a Palestinian state have been under way between the United States and these partners for nearly a year, but the administration has come under increasing pressure lately to adopt and publish the plan formally as the likelihood of a war with Iraq has risen.

As recently as December, President Bush met with European leaders and the U.N. secretary-general, Kofi Annan, all of whom wanted the peace plan published immediately to ease the anger of Arabs in the Middle East who charge that the United States has been single-mindedly focused on Iraq.

Those who met with Bush said they had won assurances that the plan would be published as soon as the Israeli elections were completed in late January.

Now, officials say, Bush has changed his mind and regards the December pledge as unrealistic. The administration’s decision not to proceed with publishing the plan — a seven-page document that calls for reciprocal steps that would also include replacing Yasser Arafat as the Palestinian leader and an end to attacks on Israel — has infuriated the Europeans even as the administration has struggled to secure the allies’ support for its possible war against Iraq.

Arafat took a step on Saturday toward meeting administration demands in announcing his appointment of a prime minister, while Israeli helicopters fired rockets that killed a Hamas leader.

Administration officials say it makes no sense to push the effort now with a possible war on the horizon and with anxiety in Israel deepening over being attacked during a war with Iraq.

Privately, many charge that Bush does not want to do anything to anger Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel. Among other reasons, they say that the United States does not want Sharon to intervene in the war even if Israel is attacked by Iraqi missiles, lest this direct Arab countries’ anger at Israel.

“Let’s face it, the road map is dead,” a European diplomat said. “This administration will never do anything opposed by Sharon.”

-b