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Does President Bush's recent speech about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict improve the chances for peace?

To show you how much President Bush's speech on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict improves the chances for peace in the region, I offer this demonstration. If you're near a table, I want you read the following passage aloud while occasionally pounding your fist against the table for emphasis:

"Blah, blah, blah, blah, Israel, blah, blah, Palestinian people, blah, blah, blah, blah, security, blah, blah, blah, puppies make people smile, blah, blah, blah. God bless America."

Congratulations. You've just given a foreign policy speech that's as likely to promote peace as Bush's. In fact, the speech above is probably more likely to encourage peace, if only during the minute Palestinians and Israelis would pause to figure out the bit about the puppies.

Cynical? Moi? I don't think so.

Bush's plan is insulting to Palestinians, demands very little of Israel and, most importantly, commits the United States to doing absolutely nothing. The speech offers nothing that might stop the "cycle" of violence. Hell, it couldn't even stop a "clumsy child on a unicycle" of violence -- or even a "blind old lady on crutches" of violence.

Let's start with the insulting to Palestinians part. Bush remarked repeatedly on how shitty Palestinian life is economically and politically. He said that their condition is "made worse by official [Palestinian] corruption," but never suggested its cause. Palestinian squalor didn't develop in a vacuum. The primary cause of the overall Palestinian condition is the 35-year-old Israeli military occupation. Bush knows it.

OK, maybe Bush doesn't know it. Until he ran for president, he probably thought that Tel Aviv was a phone company. Nevertheless, someone in the White House knows it and should have told him.

And, please, don't write me any letters about how I'm pro-Arafat. I'm not. If Arafat and his cronies choked on babaganoush tomorrow and died, the world would be a better place. Nevertheless, how can a militarily occupied people with no state, no currency and little freedom of movement prosper, regardless of their nominal leadership? It's impossible.

The only negative effect Bush attributed to the occupation was, unbelievably, its effect on Israelis -- pointing out that "permanent occupation threatens Israel's identity and democracy."

What about the effect the occupation has on the occupied Palestinians? I thought Republicans were supposed to be for victim's rights.

Even though Bush's speech sounded like Ariel Sharon helped write it, Israelis should be just as pissed off as Palestinians about it. That's because the suicide attacks are going to continue.

The speech calls on Palestinian leaders to reign in terrorists. But by stating that the U.S. won't even talk to Arafat anymore, we've removed any incentive he might've had to round up terrorists, and undermined the credibility of moderates that might try to replace him. External pressure has always solidified Arafat's hold on leadership.

There are plenty of great reasons to hate Arafat -- but he's still the leader of the Palestinians, whether we like it or not. Unlike the leaders in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Kuwait that we fought to "liberate" in 1991, Arafat was elected. A "pro-Middle East peace" speech will have to call for a return to the 1967 borders, give or take a few square miles. That peace will have to be brokered and enforced by the U.S. or a U.S.-led and -funded international force. Any speech that neglects that is hot air. And if there's one thing that Israel and Palestine don't need in summer, it's hot air.

andisheh@creativeloafing.com

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