March 31, 2002


Bush Insists Responsibility for the Bombings Is Arafat's (DAVID E. SANGER, March 31, 2002, NY Times)
President Bush said today that he held Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, personally responsible for the waves of suicide bombings in Israel, and strongly sided with the Israeli government even while warning that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon should temper military action to preserve a "path for peace."

Breaking a two-day silence on events in the Middle East, Mr. Bush summoned reporters to the gates of his ranch here during a driving rainstorm. He had just received news of yet another deadly bombing, this one in Tel Aviv, he said, and he pointedly made no effort to sound evenhanded about who was to blame for the rising violence.

Several times he sidestepped opportunities to assess Israel's decision to raid Mr. Arafat's compound, and he made no mention of the United Nations resolution that today called on Israel to pull its forces back from Ramallah, where the compound is situated — even though the United States had voted in favor of the measure just hours before Mr. Bush spoke.

Instead, he focused most of his comments on Mr. Arafat, suggesting that the suicide bombing attacks "aren't just isolated incidents" and maintaining that Mr. Arafat has the power to slow them down, if not turn them off.

"Yasir Arafat should have done more three weeks ago, and should do more today," Mr. Bush said, speaking in the glorified trailer where he conducts his daily national security briefings with principal aides in Washington via a secure videoconference facility set up on the Texas prairie. At another point Mr. Bush said of Mr. Arafat, "I believe he needs to stand up and condemn, in Arabic, these attacks," and use his security forces to stop the bombers before they strike Israeli citizens.

Mr. Bush's strong statement went beyond similar comments on Friday by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. They were also striking for their clear association of the Palestinian leader with almost daily acts of terrorism, exactly the kind of comments the White House has tried to avoid in recent weeks for fear of further undercutting the chances of resuming peace negotiations.

This should at least calm the hysteria of Blogdom's nervous nellies, who've been wringing their hands over our "abandonment" of Israel. The closer things come to all out war the more obvious it will become that we aren't actually neutral, but are pretending to be for purposes of brokering peace. Once Israel itself abandons all hope of peace we will be right by their side in war.

What's most remarkable about President Bush's comments yesterday is that they came in response to pleading from Arab and European leaders that he speak out. They, of course, meant that he should urge Israel to pull out of Palestine and they were apparently stunned by how forcefully he placed the blame on Arafat and exonerated Sharon. Apparently they (for all their supposed diplomatic sophistication) don't understand our role either; thankfully, Bush does.

Appeasing Arab Dictators : The road to peace in the Middle East runs through Baghdad, not the Arab League. (Reuel Marc Gerecht, 4/08/2002, Weekly Standard)

Bush looks lost in dealing with Mideast (ROBERT NOVAK, March 31, 2002, Chicago Sun-Times)

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 31, 2002 10:48 AM
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