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January 13, 2008

Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

Generally speaking this Administration’s policy towards the Middle East has been – how shall I put it kindly – a complete, total, unmitigated, absolute disaster.  But I’ve been surprised at how far President Bush has been willing to go in the past week on the Israeli-Palestinian issue and I think progressives should encourage his newfound willingness to play a constructive role.  His acceptance of the right of Palestinian refugees to compensation is tremendously important.  The refugee issue ranks one or two on the list of Palestinian concerns.  So, this was no small deal.

In essence, what the President is doing now is returning to the “Clinton Parameters” which were laid out seven years ago by President Clinton as the diplomatic blueprint towards a settlement of the conflict. The blueprint has changed very little and in the end any agreement will ultimately revolve around it.  (This is a great summary)

The part that is unfortunate is that the blueprint was ignored for seven years and in the meantime the situation on the ground deteriorated dramatically.  The Palestinian economy and its institutions have completely collapsed.  Hamas has seized control of Gaza.  Palestinians and Israelis have experienced horrific bouts of violence.  Still, through all of this, the diplomatic blueprint for a peace agreement remains the same.  What has changed is the second half of the project.  The part after an agreement is signed.  The part where Palestinians, with assistance from the United States, Israel and the international community, work to build a sustainable and well functioning state.  That part has gotten much more difficult.

Also, one other side point here.  Administrations have a habit of ignoring what the previous guys were doing and starting from scratch.  If the President manages to make real progress on this issue in the next year, but doesn’t get a completed peace agreement, I would hope that an incoming Democrat (knock on wood) would be smart enough to pick things up where the Bush Administration leaves off. 


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The only problem with this current intiative is that the president refuses to meet with Hamas and also the Syrians. Plus the U.S. needs to ease the American and European sanctions on the Gaza so that the population does not become further radicalized.

Generally speaking this Administration’s policy towards the Middle East has been – how shall I put it ? kindly – a complete, total, unmitigated, absolute disaster. - a complete clusterf*ck!

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