Israel, Palestine and the Legacy Trap

by Ryan on November 27, 2007

in Politics,War on Terror

Bill Clinton tried it in 2000 and now Bush is giving it a go late in his presidency:  Mideast peace among Israelis and Palestinians.  The time is always right for a lame duck President who wants to build a legacy to try to get the irreconcilable to reconcile.  If it works, you’re awesome!  If it doesn’t… ah well, no one’s been able to fix this problem so the expectations are low.  I’m really trying not be be cynical here, but while Olmert and Abbas shake hands and harrumph speeches, Hamas still represents over a million Palestinians in Gaza and still wants Israel blown off the map.

After Zippergate, BJ Clinton (his middle initial is “J” for Jefferson) needed to have something to show for eight years of drift and scandal:  Mideast peace!  All it led to was the Second Intifada, as Yasser Arafat was (as usual) in no mood to concede anything.  So, the violence and subsequent negotiations eventually led to a split in the Palestinians after Arafat’s death in 2004 which also has a geographic dimension:  Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank.

There is a big difference this time:  Arafat’s not in the room.  Clinton’s attempt to have Israel give away the farm yielded no results and showed Bush that Arafat is not a man to work with.  Since then, Abbas has been reasonable and Olmert is willing to listen.  The problem is Gaza.  Isolate them from the West Bank Palestinians and maybe they’ll get their stuff together, or maybe they’ll lash out harder.  It’s tough to say.  Lately it’s looking less like the traditional Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and more like Israel taking sides in a Palestinian civil war. 

Bush’s overture reminds me of Clinton’s in 2000.  Maybe it won’t spark a rebellion, but it’s hard to see Hamas in Gaza not flipping out no matter what happens, especially with Iran egging them on.  It looks like legacy-building for an embattled president seeing his tenure diminish as time moves on.  I agree with Bush, though, that at least it’s worth a try.  Just forgive me for the hint of cynicism.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris November 27, 2007 at 10:19 pm

Bush isn’t the only one that is legacy-building…it’s Ehud Olmert…frankly, I am very surprised that he was able to stay in power after the 2nd Lebanon War…accepting 1701 from an organization that hates Israel almost as much as they hate the US. He’s also protecting his party against the hopefully upcoming re-emergence of Benjamin Netanyahu.

Now that Arafat has assumed room temperature and is looking up at what is going on, I too am interested in the possible results, but I also am highly skeptical


Hamm November 28, 2007 at 1:03 pm

Trying to establish stability in an inherently unstable region is both foolish and expensive. Middle East peace will never be negotiated. Further, it is not in America’s interest to solve this problem. We should encourage and exploit the chaos endemic to this part of the world.


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