Feature

How they see us: Why the Arabs do not trust Bush

President Bush

President Bush’s visit to the Middle East has left us “no room for optimism,” said Jordan’s Al-Dustur in an editorial. At the Annapolis peace conference in November, Bush said he wanted to establish a Palestinian state by the end of 2008. Now that he’s visited the region, though, we have learned that those words were empty. “Upon arrival in occupied Palestine,” Bush went out of his way to affirm Washington’s support for “the Jewish nature of Israel.” That’s a clear signal that he will never support the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland; indeed, Bush’s formulation “threatens Palestine with religious and ethnic cleansing” of non-Jews. How can a Palestinian state possibly emerge “under these American conditions and in the shadow of this American bias?”

It can’t, said Saudi Arabia’s Arab News. In a better world, Bush’s words would have inspired the Arabs. “We should be excited by his call for an end to the Israeli occupation, all the more so because ‘occupation’ is a word so rarely used by the Americans in relation to the Israelis.” Unfortunately, no Arab believes that Bush can midwife a Palestinian state—for two reasons. The first is that “we can be absolutely certain that Washington is not going to exert the pressure needed to force the Israelis into making the necessary concessions.” Bush proved that over again last week by reiterating his steadfast alliance with Israel. “The second is the man himself. He has proved a disaster of a president.” Even if he truly wanted to bring about Palestinian statehood, he is either too incompetent or too impotent to achieve it.

Bush knows his sham peace process is doomed, said Egypt’s Akhbar Elyom. He simply doesn’t care. All the rhetoric about the Palestinian cause was “just a smokescreen for the visit’s main objective, which is to mobilize countries in the Gulf region against the supposed Iranian threat in preparation for escalatory steps against Iran.” Bush’s advisors had been saying all along that the main focus of his trip was to be the big speech on Iran. In that diatribe, delivered in Abu Dhabi, Bush insisted that Arab countries should band together with the U.S. to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Sorry, but we just don’t buy it. Arabs know that “the real danger, in fact, is Israel, which is the only country in the region that possesses a nuclear arsenal and continues policies of occupation and aggression with absolute support from the American ally.”

The truth is, Bush has good intentions but little else, said Calev Ben-David in The Jerusalem Post. He has offered only “a vision” of Palestinian statehood, not a plan for getting there. “The goal is for there to be a clear vision of what a state would look like,” Bush said when he was in Israel, “so that, for example, reasonable Palestinian leadership can say, here’s your choice: You can have the vision of Hamas, which is dangerous and will lead to war and violence, or you can have the vision of a state, which should be hopeful.” If this is the substance of Bush’s proposal, peace is as elusive as ever. “The problem with those Palestinians who oppose a two-state solution isn’t that they lack a vision of a Palestinian state—it’s that they lack a vision for a Jewish state existing alongside it.”

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