Monday, June 24, 2002
I just read the actual transcript of Bush's speech and it's better than the summary I linked to earlier. I can't really find anything to argue with in the essential points. This is a strongly pro-Israel speech, while still being pro-Palestinian in the sense of making it clear that there is a "political horizon" for them - if they take the necessary steps.
* A provisional state is dependent on Palestinian reform and security arrangements agreed to with Israel, Jordan and Egypt.
* Palestinian elections would be monitored by the United States.
* Palestinian finances would be audited by the United States.
* Final borders and the status of Jerusalem and the nature and location of the Palestinian capital would be decided between the parties, not by international fiat.
* The nature and limits of the sovereignty of the Palestinian state would similarly be negotiated between the parties, not imposed by fiat.
* Full normalization of relations between Israel and the entire Arab world is the goal of negotiations (not just a paper peace).
* Israel should withdraw from Areas A and B - but only as progress is made toward security.
* Palestinians' ability to work freely in Israel should be restored - but only as violence subsides.
* Frozen revenues due to the P.A. should be released - but only into accountable hands.
* A peace is to be made with "a Syria that supports peace and fights terror" - as opposed to the Syria that exists today.
* Israel is expected to work towards a final status agreement - but only as "new Palestinian institutions and leaders emerge, demonstrating real performance on security and reform."
* No strict deadlines are announced. Rather, the expectation is laid out that if all parties work towards the goal of peace and coexistence, then a deal can be worked out in 3 years.
* Bush expresses his empathy with the Palestinian people, as is appropriate. But he describes this sympathy in interesting terms, terms that point more to their having been used as a pawn by the Arab world ("For decades you've been treated s pawns in the Middle East conflict. Your interests have been held hostage to a comprehensive peace agreement that never seems to come.") and oppressed by Arafat and his clique ("You deserve democracy and the rule of law. You deserve an open society and a thriving economy."), with only passing reference to Israeli occupation.
* Most important, the audience of this message is the Palestinian people. There is no mention of Arafat, and all references to the current Palestinian leadership are derogatory. By contrast, there is no criticism of the Israeli government or of Sharon, no suggestion of "evenhandedness" in culpability. The realities of Palestinian suffering and Palestinian rights are recognized, but so is the reality of Palestinian culpability, and the Palestinian people's ability to make choices to bring peace.
The final words of the address are key: The choice here is stark and simple, the Bible says, "I have set before you life and death, therefore choose life." The time has arrived for everyone in this conflict to choose peace and hope --- and life.
There's nothing here that Natan Sharansky couldn't agree with. Now the question is: will the rhetoric be matched by reality? President Bush has very good speechwriters, and I believe they write what he truly believes. But there is a difference between believing in something and acting on it, and this Administration has shown a startling willingness to let the gap between them yawn wide - on trade and education most notably, but more alarmingly on rebuilding the military and other aspects of prosecuting the war. I still trust Bush's heart, and I still basically trust his head. What we haven't seen enough of is his strong right arm.