June 01, 2008
The Cost of No Leadership

Daniel Levy remains a treasure.

In “Bush’s Dwarf Diplomacy and the Seven Gazans” he discusses the reprise of the Freedom Fries saga that has seen the US withdraw Fulbright scholarships from seven Gazan students for reasons no one can explain. What’s the threat? How is the US, or Israel for that matter, better off if these seven students can’t study at American universities?

The issue is not just the humanitarian disaster among the Palestinians, it’s the disaster predicted in Report From Iron Mountain: the possibility, nay the desirability for the majority of the population of each involved country, of peace.

The question is, what are we doing to help? Well, I expect you know the answer.

Just look at the last couple of weeks and what has transpired in the Middle East. Lebanon was on the brink of chaos and renewed civil war. A deal was brokered to elect a new President and for a new power-sharing cabinet. That deal was brokered by… Qatar. The talks were hosted in Doha. America was absent. It’s a fragile deal; it needs nurturing. Will the Bush Administration play that role? There is nothing to suggest a positive answer.

Israel and Syria conduct proximity talks, resuming negotiations after an 8 year hiatus in peace talks. Those talks are designed to bring predictability and security to Israel’s Northern border, to establish a peace treaty and to coax Syria into a network of relationships less focused on Iran. The negotiations are being brokered by… Turkey. The talks were hosted in Istanbul. America was absent. The peace talks will be difficult, creating a new reality needs nurturing. The Bush administration has not facilitated, encouraged or expressed any enthusiasm for these Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations.

There are reasonable claims also being made that the Sadr City ceasefire was brokered by Iran.

And that brings us back to our Fulbright Scholars story, where the Bushite diplomatic dwarf meets the seven Gazans. These 7 bright youngsters make up just 0.000005% of the population of Gaza. What about the other 1.4 million Gazans living with collective punishment and under a closure that continues to have a devastating impact on every social, health and economic measure that one can imagine? And what about the 20,000 residents of the Israeli town of Sderot, and the neighboring communities, who are coming under frequent rocket barrage, including occasionally the town of Ashkelon, with its 117,000 residents? Where is American diplomacy?

There is an alternative — a ceasefire. And what do you know, Israel is in fact indirectly negotiating with Hamas and with the other Palestinian factions in Gaza to reach a ceasefire arrangement. This would allow the civilians on both sides to resume some normalcy in their lives, remove them from the line of fire, improve security and give people some hope. And these ceasefire negotiations are being mediated by… well it’s the Egyptians. The talks are being hosted in Cairo. And you’ve already guessed the American contribution — nada, oh, there was a Presidential speech about appeasement.

Realistically, if corruption doesn’t topple the current Israeli government, good things could happen. If it does, good things might be in the offing anyway. Unless, of course, you’re a member of one of those two apocalyptic groups: the rapture crowd, who need Armageddon to validate their self-despising world view; and the oil companies, from whose point of view the world will end in fifty years regardless. But I’m guessing you’re not.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at June 01, 2008 06:41 AM
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