Thursday, June 14, 2007

Takeover by Hamas Illustrates Failure of Bush's Mideast Vision

From By Glenn Kessler

Five years ago this month, President Bush stood in the Rose Garden and laid out a vision for the Middle East that included Israel and a state called Palestine living together in peace. 'I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror,' the president declared.

The takeover this week of the Gaza Strip by the Hamas militant group dedicated to the elimination of Israel demonstrates how much that vision has failed to materialize, in part because of actions taken by the administration. The United States championed Israel's departure from the Gaza Strip as a first step toward peace and then pressed both Israelis and Palestinians to schedule legislative elections, which Hamas unexpectedly won. Now Hamas is the unchallenged power in Gaza.

After his reelection in 2004, Bush said he would use his 'political capital' to help create a Palestinian state by the end of his second term. In his final 18 months as president, he faces the prospect of a shattered Palestinian Authority, a radical Islamic state on Israel's border and increasingly dwindling options to turn the tide against Hamas and create a functioning Palestinian state.

"The two-state vision is dead. It really is," said Edward G. Abington Jr., a former State Department official who was once an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. ...

The evolving U.S. strategy would let the Hamas-run Gaza Strip fend for itself while attempting to bolster Abbas as a moderate leader who can actually govern and deliver peace with Israel. The senior administration official noted that Gaza has no territorial issues with Israel, since there are no Israelis in Gaza, so the Hamas entity there would have no stake in potential peace talks concerning the border on the West Bank....

"The less we try to intervene and shape Palestinian politics, the better off we will be," said Robert Malley, an expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the International Crisis Group. "Almost every decision the United States has made to interfere with Palestinian politics has boomeranged."...

"The people who are moderate are not effective," said David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "And the people who are effective are not moderate."...

Before the Hamas takeover of Gaza, Bush and his aides had debated whether the president should make a speech marking the fifth anniversary of his Middle East address, on June 24, in part to rebut criticism that his administration has accomplished little to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Aides say now that those plans are up in the air. It is not clear what the president would say.

Maybe a surge?

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