Thursday, December 21, 2006

The 51st State

There is no question that the illegal US war in Iraq has threatened to destabilize the already fractious Middle East. There is also no question that one of the keys to lasting stability in the Middle East is a resolution of the Israel-Palestine issue. In both matters, the United States bears a substantial responsibility for the current status and for the badly needed improvement in the region. Ironically, for that improvement to happen, however, the players in the region have to be brought into the equation, and that will happen only when diplomacy rather than military muscle is used.

Unfortunately, the current administration doesn't do diplomacy, and, if this article from Ynet News is accurate, it doesn't appreciate other members of the world community using that tool.

Syrian President Bashar Assad is repeatedly calling on Israel to engage in peace talks. In recent days he added that he has no preconditions for entering such talks -Assad is not even demanding the return of the Golan Heights as a precondition.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gave an extraordinary response to Assad's overture: Engaging in dialogue with Syria at this time would be "against the position of (US President) George Bush, Israel's greatest friend," who is not interested in a peace agreement between Israel and Syria. Thus, Israel is rejecting Syria's outstretched hand.
[Emphasis added]

I'm sure Mr. Olmert didn't have to use mental telepathy to divine President Bush's position on Syria. The White House has made it clear to the entire world that it has no intention of speaking to Syria on Iraq or any other subject. I'm sure the White House has also made it clear that it will not countenance Israel doing so as well, which is foolish for many reasons.

If nothing else, Mr. Bush could have used Israeli-Syrian talks to indirectly coax Syria into pressuring the Sunni insurgents to settle down without having to go back on his assertions that he will not negotiate with Syria.

More importantly for the region, however, one less knot in the tangled Middle East could have been untied. A peace treaty between Israel and Syria with the resolution of the Golan Heights issue might have enabled more fruitful talks on the whole panoply of Israel-Palestine questions. In other words, the peace process would have gotten back on track.

But, no, Bush continues to manipulate the rest of the world to achieve whatever it is he wants to achieve. As a result, a wonderful opening to get something positive done in the Middle East is being rejected.

Stupid. Dangerously so.

And shameful.

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