The American Interest

Bush’s Middle East Policy: Mendacity, Folly, or Both?

On June 24, President George W. Bush delivered his long-awaited speech on the Middle East.  Most of his 15-minute statement was devoted to harsh criticism of the Palestinians, including the assertion that “peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership . . . not compromised by terrorism.”  In addition to ditching Yasser Arafat and ending the system in which “power is concentrated in the hands of an unaccountable few,” the President told the Palestinians that they had to eradicate corruption, reform security services, create an independent judiciary, empower the legislature, and “build a practicing democracy based on tolerance and liberty.”  Mr. Bush declared that Palestinian democratic transformation must consist of more than “cosmetic changes or a veiled attempt to preserve the status quo.”  If fully and willingly applied, he said, those changes would form the basis of a peace process that might lead to a “provisional” Palestinian state.

Mr. Bush talked briefly but approvingly of Israel’s right to defend herself, indirectly condoning Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s attempt to deal with the Palestinians through military means.  He equated Palestinian suicide attacks with the global “terror” against which America is at war.  He made no demand for an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories, which...

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