By Alan Caruba
President Bush continues his Middle East trip, having been to Israel where he spent three days pretending that the Palestinians can actually agree to peace after sixty years of rejecting every effort towards that rational goal.
He is currently visiting a number of oil-producing Gulf States and will visit Egypt, no doubt to see the pyramids. While the official welcomes will be cordial, the press of the Middle East, according to Gulf Times, published in Qatar, is offering a different point of view.
Syria, no friend to the United States, despite having sent a representative to the Annapolis conference to revive the moribund “peace process” with Israel, said that, “All that comes from the White House are hollow words,” said the official Ath-Thawra newspaper. A dictatorship now into its second generation, the views of Syrians should be taken with a grain of salt.
In Egypt, Al Wafd, regarded as a “liberal opposition newspaper”, described the President as “the most hateful visitor” to the region and a “war criminal.” Egypt has received billions in foreign aid over the years from the U.S. In order to regain the Sinai desert, lost to Israel after Egypt attacked in the 1967 war, Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel. Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian President, was rewarded for this act of statesmanship by being assassinated.
“You are lying as you have lied before to the people of the Middle East and to your own people,” said Al Wafd. Actually, President Bush repeatedly warned Iraq’s Saddam Hussein to obey the many United Nations resolutions at the risk of being deposed. One thing’s for sure, Bush wasn’t lying.
In Jordan, though not among those nations visited, political analyst Rami Khouri said that Washington’s refusal to accept the verdict when groups like the Islamist Palestinian group, Hamas, was elected to power, left Bush open to accusations of hypocrisy. “If you preach majority rule and the rule of law as a desirable global norm, but refuse to respect it when Israel’s interests are concerned, you come across as a hypocrite, at best, and a deceitful cheat, at worst.”
All the Palestinian election demonstrated was that sixty years of brainwashing voters to want nothing less than Israel’s destruction was reflected in the outcome. People have famously voted for bad political parties, from the Nazi Party in Germany to the Venezuelans who elected Hugo Chavez, a friend and admirer of Fidel Castro, to office. In the case of Hamas, it killed a few Fatah (PLO) party functionaries and drove Mahmoud Abba into the safety of the West Bank where Israel could protect him. Its main function in Gaza is to fire rockets into Israel.
In Dubai, busily trying to buy up as many American assets as possible, the Gulf News published a front-page letter to President Bush concerning his Administration’s policies in the Middle East, focusing of course on U.S. support for Israel which it maintains exists solely for the “oppression” of Palestinians. It said the President had “no moral right to lecture others.” One might argue that Saddam Hussein had no moral right to invade Iran and conduct a war for eight years, only to later invade Kuwait.
The leaders of these nations know that the only thing between them and permanent residence in Switzerland or Monaco is the protection of the United States.
The fixation on Israel and the Palestinians reflects the difficulties of any diplomatic effort to get Middle Eastern nations to embrace any kind of democracy for their own people. All that oil revenue insulates the local sheiks from having to share power.
Bearing in mind that these newspaper clearly have an impact on the opinions of millions of Middle Easterners, their less than generous “welcome” cannot be discounted as a factor in what will be a long-term resistance to any common sense resolution to the region’s most pressing need, its connection to the rest of the world in terms of human rights, the rule of law, democracy, and other standards pioneered by the West and practiced—you guessed it—in Israel.
Ultimately, the President’s trip seems to be directed at mobilizing these nations to the threat posed by Iran. If it succeeds in that, it will have been worth the effort.