Jewish World Review May 27, 2003 / 25 Iyar, 5763

Zev Chafets

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Political — and literal — suicide | President Bush is said to be pondering a peacemaking trip to the Middle East. I have two words of advice: Don't go.

Let's start with the most pressing reason: If Bush gets anywhere near the Middle East right now, there's an excellent chance that someone will kill him.

Saddam Hussein is still on the loose, armed and dangerous. The deposed Iraqi dictator tried to whack Bush's father, and he's got an even better reason to go after the son. Saddam also has several billion dollars in cash. In the Middle East, you can hire an assassin for $50. Saddam can send an army.

Unless somebody beats him to it. Osama Bin Laden's guys would love to kill Bush. So would Hamas or Islamic Jihad or Yasser Arafat's Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Not to mention Iran's Hezbollah proxies or the Egyptian Muslim underground that murdered their nation's President Anwar Sadat.

Bush is a macho guy. Nobody doubts his personal courage. But this isn't throwing out the first pitch at Yankee Stadium. Right now, the Middle East is full of men and women who would be honored to martyr themselves in the blood of the Satan from Crawford, Tex.

The trip might be worth the risk if there were any chance that personal diplomacy could accomplish something. But it can't. A trip to the Middle East right now is a recipe for failure. To see that, all Bush needs to do is take a look at the crowd cheering him on. British Prime Minister Tony Blair is the only one who could plausibly be considered a friend. All the others - French President Jacques Chirac, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the heads of the Arab League and aspiring Democratic candidates - want to see Bush fall flat on his face.

He will, too. Given the state of enmity between Israel and the Arabs, the nature of the international road map for peace and Bush's own inclinations, failure is inevitable. And it would be Bush's fault.

Let me put this bluntly: In the Arab-Israeli dispute, the international community is on the Arab side. The road map it has concocted - and expects Bush to force on Israel - is nothing more than a demand for a Palestinian state. Period. If that state is governed by reasonable leaders who accept Israel's right to exist, fine. If not, tough.

Bush ostensibly favors the road map, too. But not at any price. His reservations stem from the fact that, unlike the world community, Bush is deeply pro-Israel. Why? Good question. It can't be his background. His father was notably cold to Jerusalem. Politics? Bush got a small fraction of the Jewish vote in 2000, and even Republican optimists don't think he'll win a majority in 2004. A Jewish cabal in the White House? Despite fevered attempts to paint Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and various second-tier functionaries as members of a diabolical cell of the Elders of Zion, this administration is notable for the paucity of Jews at its most senior levels.

Even Bush's born-again Christianity doesn't explain things. After all, Jimmy Carter was born again, too, and there has never been an American President so instinctively hostile to the Jewish state.

Actually, the root of Bush's affinity for Israel isn't mysterious. He's a Texan. When he looks at Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, he sees his hero, Sam Houston; when he looks at Yasser Arafat, he sees Pancho Villa.

Nor is this simply a matter of sentiment. In a region of anti-American countries, Israel is uniquely pro-American. And with the U.S. engaged in a for-us-or-against-us war in the Middle East, that's not a small thing.

Some American foreign policy sophisticates in the State Department, the oil business and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party disagree. They regard American support for Israel as a valid Arab grievance. They want Bush to appease it by ramming the road map down Israel's throat, not so much for the sake of the Palestinians, but to demonstrate evenhandedness to the Arab world.

But Bush won't do this. He won't play make-believe with his demand that Arafat relinquish power. He won't insist that Israel withdraw its troops from the West Bank and Gaza before the Palestinian Authority makes a good-faith effort to stop terrorism. And he won't pressure Sharon into agreeing to a Palestinian state as long as the Palestinians are demanding the right of return for refugees, the practical consequence of which would be the end of Israel's Jewish majority.

Bush won't do these things because if he were in Sharon's place, he wouldn't agree to them. The most Bush will ask for is a freeze on settlements and a partial withdrawal. Sharon won't turn down these requests and blow up the talks. He won't have to. The Palestinians will beat him to it.

Even if Bush survives his road trip to the Middle East, he is doomed to fail - which is what the "Go, George, go" crowd really wants. The Arab League dictators will once more be able to consolidate power by exploiting indignation at America's latest treachery. France and Russia will use it as an opportunity to increase their influence in the Islamic world at the expense of the U.S. Meanwhile, at home, Bush's Democratic rivals can blame him for a diplomatic fiasco.

Under the circumstances, it's hard to think of a worse presidential trip to make. If I were Bush, I'd fire the travel agent who tried to talk me into it.

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Zev Chafets is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.

05/12/03: That noise is Europe rising
05/09/03: Dems overplay the economy card
05/05/03: Truth or Consequences: To win Arab liberals' trust, Bush needs to find Iraq's WMDs
05/01/03: U.S. security, not economy, is key for prez
04/28/03: Real artists, not airheads
04/22/03: Sealed With a Kiss
04/14/03: Don't believe the cheers
04/03/03: Iraq's only the start --- Syria & Iran are next
04/01/03: War's happy troubadours
03/27/03: What's not going on is the key in this war
03/20/03: The big question: Can Arabs handle liberty?
03/17/03: In war, like in baseball, the idea is to make the other guy cry --- now, let's go get 'em!
03/13/03: Jewish plot? This pol has gone punchy
03/11/03: Prez is ready to finish off the Security Council, too
03/04/03: Those human shields need some star power
02/28/03: How prez could further racial pluralism but end affirnative action
02/24/03: Prof's arrest will test Arab Americans' loyalty
02/11/03: Rhyme, but no reason
02/04/03: McGovern's children
01/23/03: A peace movement that's going nowhere
01/13/03: No time for experts
01/07/03: Senator from Mayberry shouldn't alarm prez
12/31/02: Dem Dummies
12/19/02: Saudis still play Santa to Arafat
12/13/02: Lott has to be dumped to save W's authority
12/05/02: Kissinger's Saudi pals litter 9/11 money trail
11/25/02: Sharon looks like a winner
11/18/02: It's the war, stupid
11/14/02: The Dems don't have a prayer
11/07/02: Watch for Dubya to give Arik political hug
10/31/02: Sharpton the patriot
10/22/02: Rabin, gone but not missed
10/17/02: Israelis bracing for US' punch at Iraq
10/14/02: Geriatric war resisters
09/27/02: Al Gore: The Lost Boy of American politics
09/05/02: The intifadeh's over, and the Israelis won
08/29/02: At the world summit, just anger & hypocrisy
08/21/02: No time for weak knees on Iraq
08/16/02: A pro-Arab pol may get the beating she deserves
08/13/02: Fight it out now
08/02/02: Memo to The Council on Foreign Relations: U.S. values won't sell in Arab world
07/31/02: Israel's nutty neighbors

© 2002, NY Daily News