January 29, 2004

Carnage on Egged Bus No.19

Another bus. More innocents slaughtered horrifically. A particularly grisly suicide bombing in Jerusalem.

This comes after an uptick of violence in Gaza.

It also comes, almost contemporaneously, at the same time as a Hezbollah/IDF prisoner exchange.

And while U.S. peace envoys (read: hapless Foggy Bottom folk without support from the Oval Office going through the motions of roadmap, er, 'implementation') are in the region.

In other words, the bombing comes as good news (if minimal) was in the air.

Put differently, there is some logic to this grotesque, savage violence.

No surprise of course.

The peace process has always been a race between moderates, on the one hand, and extremists on the other.

Right now, the Palestinian extremists are, pretty much, driving the show (lest we forget, Israeli extremists have driven the show in the past, see Baruch Goldstein, or the repulsive Rabin assassin Yigal Amir).

A big reason why is because Bush detests Arafat and won't deal with him. And no other effective Palestinian leader exists. So there's no one, so to speak, to do business with.

In this vacuum, a young suicide bomber can have more impact on short-term Palestinian-Israeli dynamics than leaders in the region.

At the same time, the Bushies never got over their "ABC" approach (Anything But Clinton) that derided Clintonian micromanagment of the peace process.

The images of Bill Clinton intently peering at maps with Yasser and Ehud whilst digesting myriad minutae about Jerusalem neighborhoods and such were viewed derisively by Bush foreign policy advisors--as was the seemingly endless gaggle of special envoys rushing about the Holy Land hither dither through the Clinton years.

But there is a middle ground between cheapening the Presidential (or special envoy) coin by constant use--and, pretty much, not using it at all (at least since Aqaba last year).

There are no easy answers, of course. It's an election year, Bush is busy with Iraq, etc etc.

So 10 dead here, 8 dead there. The toll mounts, day by day, week to week, year after year.

And Washington does little to nothing.

It's an abdication of our leadership role as honest broker. We are the only power that can bring these two parties to the table. No one else can do it.

So we have to roll up our sleeves and try harder, don't we?

This means the President needs to be personally involved. It might mean a special envoy. Or that Condi should go out with a CIA team ready to think, really think, about ways to extract real security reform from Arafat in return for Sharon making real-time contemporaneous concessions if the PA security reforms are fully verifiable, transparent, and fully made in good faith.

But don't hold your breath. The peace process is dead until at least '05.

That's a real shame and, of course, a human tragedy.

And a fact that Kerry will be using against Bush in the election.

Posted by Gregory at January 29, 2004 11:00 AM
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