May 31, 2003


Bush's Road Map: A post-Iraq journey to mend fences in Europe, Mideast (Ken Fireman, May 31, 2003, Newsday)
One of President George W. Bush's most cherished maxims, according to aides, is that political capital must be used rapidly to promote a leader's goals or it will soon dissipate.

With that in mind, the president began an ambitious trip Friday aimed at applying prestige from the victory in Iraq to the effort to solve one of the world's most intractable problems: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The trip's high point is expected next week when Bush meets with Arab leaders in Egypt, and with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, in Aqaba, Jordan. [...]

Several factors have convinced Bush that it is time for a major commitment of presidential prestige. First, the Palestinian Authority recently met one of his key demands by naming a prime minister, Abbas, who is formally committed to squelching terrorism and overhauling the authority's political and economic structures.

Second, in the runup to the Iraq conflict, Bush made commitments to key allies, Tony Blair of Britain and Jose Maria Aznar of Spain, and to Arab leaders, that he would release the long-planned road map at a propitious moment and press a reluctant Sharon to support it. That moment came earlier this month, and Sharon got a divided Israeli cabinet to give provisional backing.

Finally, administration officials believe that the U.S. ouster of Saddam Hussein changed the power balance in the region in Washington's favor - but that this will not last forever.

For all these reasons, Bush said in an interview with foreign journalists shortly before departure, he decided it was time to act.

"I believe in the possibilities of peace," he said. "I trust the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority when he condemns terror. I believe that provides an opening for the United States and others to expend the necessary energies to move the process forward."

Bush added that his trip may help to mitigate what he acknowledged was Arab skepticism about his commitment to pursue the peace process. "I told a lot of the leaders that after the Iraq situation I would work toward peace in the Middle East," he said. "I want them to look me in the eye so they can see that I am determined to work to make this happen."

President Bush continues to use the cunning ploy of saying what he's going to do and then doing it...positively fiendish... Posted by Orrin Judd at May 31, 2003 2:18 PM
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