June 03, 2003

Mideast Roundup An EU-led second

Mideast Roundup

An EU-led second roadmap for the Israeli-Syrian track? This possibility is treated as less likely to meet with Washington's approval in a piece in the same paper on the Franco-U.S. "detente."

Meanwhile, Dubya continues to signal his seriousness to vigorously pursue a settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians. The latest indication is his plan to leave behind a career diplomat to monitor roadmap implementation:

"In an effort to demonstrate that the sessions are not for show, Bush will announce that John S. Wolf, assistant secretary of state for nonproliferation and a 33-year Foreign Service veteran, will head a new U.S.-led monitoring team that will stay behind after the talks. The team will track whether Israeli and Palestinian officials keep promises that the peace plan calls on them to make at the sessions."

In another WaPo piece by Glenn Kessler Dubya's approach to Middle East peacemaking is analyzed. No surprise, it is very unClintonian. There will likely be no late night bull sessions at Camp David or command of every detail per the latest twist and turns in the negotiations between the parties. This is likely a good thing. The presidential coin, the unparalled prestige of the occupant of the U.S. Presidency, should be guarded zealously and used solely at key junctures. Clinton was too overbearing in his approach and botched some of the diplomacy because of a lack of organization (for instance, not enough backstopping with other key leaders like Mubarak and Fahd on a vital issue like Jerusalem concessions didn't help the chances of a typically ineffective negotiator like Arafat making grand forays on an issue that impacts over a billion Muslims wordwide).

Read the whole thing. Particularly this fascinating part:

"The administration has been careful, on the other hand, to coordinate its policies closely with Sharon, so much so that Sharon bragged about the "deep friendship" and "special closeness" of the U.S.-Israeli relationship during the Israeli elections in January.

But the relationship between Bush and Sharon is complex. Bush has told aides that he has serious doubts that Sharon has a vision to achieve peace, and that if Sharon does have such a vision, he hasn't shared it with the president, according to administration officials.

Sharon's meetings with Bush, moreover, are carefully prepared and choreographed by both sides. Potential issues are carefully vetted and discussed by senior aides before the two men meet, so there can be little chance of a misunderstanding. Rice often speaks with Sharon at length the day before he sees Bush in the Oval Office.

Before the June 24 speech, there were extensive negotiations between a small group of Israelis and Americans over the parameters of the speech and how far Bush could go without falling out of lockstep with the Israelis, one participant said. Not only does Sharon's chief of staff meet frequently with Rice; so does Arie Genger, an Israeli American businessman who is a close friend of Sharon.

Bush called Sharon a "man of peace" last year, infuriating Arabs angry over the Israeli army's actions against Palestinians in the West Bank. Bush publicly has not backed off that statement, but last year he privately rebuked Sharon when the Israeli leader began to repeat the comment to the president, administration officials said.

Bush interrupted Sharon when he began to say he was a "man of peace and security," according to a witness to the exchange who recounted it. "I know you are a man of security," Bush said. "I want you to work harder on the peace part."

Then, adding a bit of colloquial language that first seemed to baffle Sharon, Bush jabbed: "I said you were a man of peace. I want you to know I took immense crap for that."

Aides said the one leader in the region who has earned Bush's respect is Abdullah, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, who forcefully challenged the president over his handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a visit to Bush's ranch in Crawford, Tex., in April of last year.

In a scene that one senior Bush adviser later likened to "a near-death experience," Abdullah arrived at Crawford with a book showing pictures of Palestinian suffering and a 10-minute videotape of images of children shot and crushed by Israelis that had appeared on Arab television.

The adviser said Abdullah spoke eloquently about what these images meant -- conveying a respect for life rather than a hatred of Israel -- and then laid it on the line for Bush: Was he going to do something about this or not?

Current and former officials said Abdullah put it this way: I will work with you if you are willing to deal with this issue. If you can't, let me know now. No matter what, I'll always say positive things about you in public. But I have to make certain calculations on my own if you aren't going to step up to the plate.

Bush replied that he was working on a vision and would present it soon, the current and former officials said.

"It certainly made an impact on the president," one official said.

Few leaders had ever spoken so directly to Bush. The president, the official said, concluded that Abdullah was a good person who has a vision of where he wants to lead his country. Since then, the president frequently asks aides whether Abdullah believes Bush is living up to the commitments he made at Crawford."

Finally, a Haaretz poll shows that despite the horrific bloodshed of the past two odd years-- fully 59% of Israelis nevertheless support the roadmap.

Posted by Gregory at June 3, 2003 11:00 AM
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