The Jerusalem Post, Editorial , October, 2002


As US President George W. Bush's envoy to the region, it would seem reasonable to presume that Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns is committed to advancing his Middle East policy.

Standing on the White House lawn with Secretary of State Colin Powell at his side on June 24, Bush laid out his "road map" for the Middle East in great and eloquent detail. Since Bush is ostensibly the best authority on his foreign policy, let us recall what he said:

*There is simply no way to achieve that peace until all parties fight terrorÉ Peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership, so that a Palestinian state can be born.

*When the Palestinian people have new leaders, new institutions and new security arrangements with their neighbors, the United States of America will support the creation of a Palestinian state.

*A Palestinian state will never be created by terror - it will be built through reform. And reform must be more than cosmetic change, or veiled attempt to preserve the status quo.

*True reform will require entirely new political and economic institutions, based on democracy, market economics, and action against terrorism.

*The United States will not support the establishment of a Palestinian state until its leaders engage in a sustained fight against the terrorists and dismantle their infrastructure.

*Every leader actually committed to peace will end incitement to violence in official media and publicly denounce homicide bombings. Every nation actually committed to peace will stop the flow of money, equipment, and recruits to terrorist groups seeking the destruction of Israel.

*As we make progress toward security, Israel's forces need to withdraw fully to positions they held prior to September 28, 2000.

*As violence subsides, freedom of movement should be restored, permitting innocent Palestinians to resume work and normal life. And Israel should release frozen Palestinian revenues into honest, accountable hands.

Now fast forward to Ariel Sharon's meeting with Bush at the White House last week, during which Burns handed Sharon the State Department's road map for achieving the president's aims.

The road map calls for the IDF to withdraw to the positions it held on September 28, 2000, ahead of any Palestinian action to dismantle terror organizations and confiscate of illegal weapons.

The plan further dictates that Israel must hand over billions of shekels in tax revenues to the Palestinians now. That is, the funds must be given to Yasser Arafat's men, who today head the wholly unreformed Palestinian security services and dictatorial bureaucracy.

The road map calls on the IDF to cease all of its anti-terror operations immediately in order to ease the humanitarian conditions of the Palestinians.

The plan further calls for Palestinian statehood without any benchmarks really being met to ensure that such a state will not simply be another state supporter of terrorism.

Prejudging the outcome of a mission still under way can be a tricky business. But given the absolute divergence of the State Department's road map from Bush's Middle East policy, the outcome is clear.

Over the past nine years more than 1,000 Israelis have been murdered and the Palestinians have been systematically disenfranchised, because the world turned a blind eye to PA corruption, terrorism, and incitement. Understanding this reality, Bush demanded that all future attempts to make peace be based on a fundamental transformation of Palestinian society, starting at the top.

There is so little resemblance between the Burns/Powell road map and Bush's sweeping rethink of American policy that we can only conclude that the president has not fully examined the matter himself. Perhaps he is simply allowing the State Department to go its own way, with a thought to engaging more fully when it matters, after the expected campaign in Iraq.

Yet even if State's road map is meant to be more of a place holder for a policy than a policy itself, it is disturbing that such failed formulas continue to be regurgitated as if Oslo never fell apart, as if Bush never spoke, and as if there was no American interest in placing democracy and freedom at the forefront of its policy toward the Middle East. The next time Bush sends his envoys out on a mission, he should check that his policy is being implemented, rather than the policy of his immediate predecessor.

(c) 2002 The Jerusalem Post

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