Foreign Policy Blogs

Bush on Palestinian State: No Swiss Cheese

The President is concluding the Israel/Palestinian portion of his Middle East trip, before moving on the Gulf to deal with Iran.   Bush feels confident that there will be a Palestinian state and a peace treaty before he leaves office in slightly more than a year, saying “'there's going to be a signed peace treaty by the time I leave office,’ stressing that Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will ‘make tough choices in order for there to be lasting peace.'” (Middle East Times)

To this author, this kind of rhetoric seems typically worrisome, infused with the idea that merely believing something is enough to make it happen.   And, as a New York Times story says , the Palestinians don't much believe it either.  “‘He has destroyed everything, and now he is coming to see the results," said Moussa Al Hilou, 63, a clothing store owner. ‘What Palestinian state is he talking about? What he says is nonsense, even our leadership knows that.’"

Bush, as the Israeli paper Haaretz reports, is not happy with Bush being there, for reason ranging from the grand- they believe he is the most Israeli-biased President in history- to the prosaic: his arrival has prompted massive (justified) security measures.

“Ala, who lives nearby, said Preventive Security personnel had been moving from house to house for the past few days and taking down residents’ names.
‘We were asked not to go out onto the balconies or the roofs. We are not allowed to go into the street, either,’ he said. 'that criminal, George Bush, has put us under curfew. The Israelis are not enough – now him, too. He is destroying the world and he will yet be tried for his crimes,’ he added.”

I don't see much coming out of this, other than an attempt at a legacy.  Bush is too unpopular and hard-feelings are too ingrained for anything to happen here (with everything else that has happened, it is somewhat incredible to realize that George W. Bush has been the President thoughout almost all of the events starting with the second intifada). 

 What he did do though was call for an end to the occupation, and said that “a Palestinian state had to be contiguous. 'swiss cheese isn't going to work when it comes to the territory of a state.’   This is probably not the single most eloquent framing of this issue I have ever read, but it is still meaningful for a US President to acknowledge it.   Whomever the next President is, he or she will have to pick up where Bush falteringly and belatedly began.

(As Bush moves into the Gulf, we will be doing an in-depth look at Gulf issues, especially regarding Iran.  Excited?  You bet you are!)



Brian O'Neill

Brian O'Neill is a freelance writer currently based out of Chicago. He has lived in Egypt and in Yemen, and worked as a writer and editor for the Yemen Observer publishing company. He currently is an analyst with the Jamestown Foundation.