November 23, 2004


An Israeli Hawk Accepts the President's Invitation (Dana Milbank, November 23, 2004, Washington Post)

Those looking for clues about President Bush's second-term policy for the Middle East might be interested to know that, nine days after his reelection victory, the president summoned to the White House an Israeli politician so hawkish that he has accused Ariel Sharon of being soft on the Palestinians.

Bush met for more than an hour on Nov. 11 with Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident now known as a far-right member of the Israeli cabinet. Joined by Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., incoming national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley and administration Mideast specialist Elliot Abrams, Bush told Sharansky that he was reading the Israeli's new book, "The Case for Democracy," and wanted to know more. Sharansky, with co-author Ron Dermer, had a separate meeting with Condoleezza Rice, later chosen by Bush to be the next secretary of state. [...]

Sharansky's ideas are clear: no concessions, funds or legitimacy for the Palestinians unless they adopt democracy, but a modern-day Marshall Plan for the Palestinians if they embrace democratic ways. The same hard line that worked for Ronald Reagan against the Soviet Union, Sharansky argues in his book, would work for Israel against the Palestinians.

In his book, Sharansky echoes many of Bush's favorite lines, talking of the need for "moral clarity" in fighting evil. Likening the fight against terrorism to the struggle with Nazism and communism, he described a world "divided between those who are prepared to confront evil and those who are willing to appease it" -- a common Bush dichotomy. "I am convinced that all peoples desire to be free," Sharansky writes. "I am convinced that freedom anywhere will make the world safer everywhere. And I am convinced that democratic nations, led by the United States, have a critical role to play in expanding freedom around the globe."

Just as Bush justifies the Iraq war by talking of it as a catalyst for democratization in the Middle East, Sharansky argues that while dictators keep power by spreading fear and hatred, democracies are inherently peaceful. "When a free people governs itself, the chances of a war being fought against other free peoples is removed almost entirely," he writes.

Sharansky had previously met with Rice and Vice President Cheney, but Dermer said this was his first meeting with Bush as president. Still, the book is flattering of Bush's leadership. While accusing then-President Jimmy Carter, who championed Sharansky's cause during his Gulag days, of having "blind sympathy" and "trust for dictators," the Israeli praised a Bush speech on the Middle East as "almost too good to be true," saying: "President Bush turned his back on Yasser Arafat's dictatorship once and for all." As previously noted in this space, that Bush speech lifted many of Sharansky's ideas.

Mr. Sharansky has the rare privilege of being at the center of the democratization of Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 23, 2004 5:23 PM

Condi, too.

Posted by: Timothy at November 23, 2004 5:38 PM

I was once at a convention with some other math geeks and we were into our second bottle of wine and the question came up of who was the greatest living mathematician. Some guys said Paul Erdos. One guy said Beyer, the guy who revolutionized horse racing. But I said, Shcharansky.

Posted by: Bart at November 23, 2004 6:42 PM

Sharansky was recently on C-SPAN's Book TV discussing that book.

Very impressive.

Posted by: John J. Coupal at November 24, 2004 9:17 AM