Yesterday, the Department of State sent a high level emissary to see if any deal-making could be done with Senator Lincoln Chafee regarding his opposition to John Bolton.
President Bush’s speech yesterday at the UN seemed nearly a tailor-made response that the White House might begin to take seriously a new round of credible diplomacy in the Middle East.
On Palestine/Israel, Bush stated:
The world must also stand up for peace in the Holy Land. I’m committed to two democratic states — Israel and Palestine — living side-by-side in peace and security. I’m committed to a Palestinian state that has territorial integrity and will live peacefully with the Jewish state of Israel. This is the vision set forth in the road map — and helping the parties reach this goal is one of the great objectives of my presidency. The Palestinian people have suffered from decades of corruption and violence and the daily humiliation of occupation. Israeli citizens have endured brutal acts of terrorism and constant fear of attack since the birth of their nation. Many brave men and women have made the commitment to peace. Yet extremists in the region are stirring up hatred and trying to prevent these moderate voices from prevailing.
This struggle is unfolding in the Palestinian territories. Earlier this year, the Palestinian people voted in a free election. The leaders of Hamas campaigned on a platform of ending corruption and improving the lives of the Palestinian people, and they prevailed. The world is waiting to see whether the Hamas government will follow through on its promises, or pursue an extremist agenda. And the world has sent a clear message to the leaders of Hamas: Serve the interests of the Palestinian people. Abandon terror, recognize Israel’s right to exist, honor agreements, and work for peace.
President Abbas is committed to peace, and to his people’s aspirations for a state of their own. Prime Minister Olmert is committed to peace, and has said he intends to meet with President Abbas to make real progress on the outstanding issues between them. I believe peace can be achieved, and that a democratic Palestinian state is possible. I hear from leaders in the region who want to help. I’ve directed Secretary of State Rice to lead a diplomatic effort to engage moderate leaders across the region, to help the Palestinians reform their security services, and support Israeli and Palestinian leaders in their efforts to come together to resolve their differences. Prime Minister Blair has indicated that his country will work with partners in Europe to help strengthen the governing institutions of the Palestinian administration. We welcome his initiative. Countries like Saudi Arabia and Jordan and Egypt have made clear they’re willing to contribute the diplomatic and financial assistance necessary to help these efforts succeed. I’m optimistic that by supporting the forces of democracy and moderation, we can help Israelis and Palestinians build a more hopeful future and achieve the peace in a Holy Land we all want.
What the President has outlined does not constitute a credible policy or even really a new direction. It simply signifies that he is beginning to get the sense that there are some “really important issues” over there that need attention.
The President is at least talking about Israel/Palestine and has not backed away from his encouragement of a two state outcome. But he has not put together a plan that makes the rhetoric believable as of yet.
Our advice to Senator Chafee — keep your powder dry.
John Bolton is the wrong person to handle America’s diplomacy at the UN — and is the world’s best expert in setting the UN up for failure. One only has to remember Bolton’s promises that he would conscientiously approach reform at the UN in an above the board manner. But succeeding at actually getting the UN back in good shape or getting the kind of Human Right Council the US could support — something that should have been the absolute highest priority for Ambassador Bolton to accomplish — would not be good line items in John Bolton’s resume as the nation’s poster-person for “pugnacious Americanism.”
On the Middle East, beware, the administration is also pretty good at setting up Middle East diplomacy for failure — embracing one side at the expense of the other, over and over again. A real program will lay out the ground rules of fair and just negotiations and not leave the environment one that Vice President Cheney and his team can easily tip at the end.
Stand strong on Bolton.
— Steve Clemons
Ed Note: I had a great time at the Birmingham Committee on Foreign Relations last night after an excellent evening discussion with members of the Nashville Committee on Foreign Relations the night before. Today, I am flying to New York to attend and blog the Clinton Global Initiative.
— Steve Clemons