The Road Map to Re-Election...er...Middle-East Peace
I haven't really been paying that much attention to the details of Bush's Middle-East Road Map to Peace Tour (coming to a town near you!) I must confess to being surprised by the 0-60 engagement approach Bush has shown and have naturally wondered what is really going. It just seems so out of character for Bush to be so engaged on this issue when, up till now, he has demonstrated no significant concern about it. I think I just got my first clue from a Slate article by Samer Shehata (link courtesy Matthew Yglesias).
But not only does the road map show a slow route, it also lacks a destination. The plan promises to establish a viable Palestinian state by 2005 after a series of reciprocal steps on the part of both parties and two international conferences, but what this Palestinian state will look like is left unclear. In fact, none of the major issues facing Israel and the Palestinians — the status of Jerusalem, the future of Israeli settlers and Palestinian refugees, the establishment of borders, the guarantee of security — are addressed in concrete terms in the road map document. In my view, these core issues must be not only be addressed now; they must be resolved now. Guided only by a road map displaying a circuitous way to an unknown endpoint, both parties are bound to lose the confidence and momentum they currently have.
The conspicuous silence on the most contentious issues is not at all surprising considering that those are the issues that have derailed past peace efforts and Rove knows that those kind of failures look bad. How better to look engaged and triumphant than to trumpet a plan that only deals with the easiest parts of the conflict? But something else also caught my eye: the deadline for completion of the roadmap is 2005... ...one year after the 2004 election. I have to hand it to Rove. This is a brilliant strategy for dealing with the criticism Bush has received for his lack of engagement in the middle-east. First propose something that is fairly easy to accomplish, trumpet your success at achieving those things, but then put off the ultimate completion of the process until after the election. Anyone who attacks Bush now can be dealt with by simply saying that there is a plan in the works that will come to fruition after the election (underlying message: you better vote for Bush if you want it to work). I just knew there had to be something smelly about this deal. There always is when it comes to Bush.