The Sins of the Son (Extract)

Extract from an article in Issue 22, February 18, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here. History may repeat itself and a Clinton White House could once again succeed a Bush presidency. Astonishingly, despite what occurred under William Jefferson Clinton - the Camp David fire sale and the blatant meddling in Israeli domestic politics - George W. Bush's recent visit to the Middle East convinces me that another Clinton presidency would be preferable to the current Bush administration. Hopefully, some better qualified Republican candidate will spare us that outcome. In 1992, it was good to see the back of George Herbert Walker Bush and his all-purpose fixer, secretary of state Jim Baker. That duo first empowered the Palestinians at the Madrid Conference, where local Palestinian leaders Hanan Ashrawi and Khaider Abdel-Shafi fronted for Arafat & Co. Bush and Baker also manipulated Israeli politics by withholding loan guarantees, thus facilitating Yitzhak Rabin's 1992 election victory and the Oslo disaster that ensued. During his first seven years in office, Bush the younger by and large refrained from the sins of his father. That has now changed. On his recent visit, he insisted on an end to the occupation as the point of departure for final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. He also backpedaled from even the feeble compensation offered to Israel in his 2004 letter to Ariel Sharon. And he blatantly intervened in Israeli domestic politics by shamelessly shilling for Ehud Olmert, to cushion him in advance of the Winograd Commission's findings. "Dubya" (Bush's uncomplimentary nickname) has recently taken to comparing himself with Harry S. Truman, as he too persevered with an unpopular but necessary war. The comparison won't wash for two reasons. First, Bush Jr. has abandoned the principles that characterized his early years. Those who continue to believe in his good intentions mutter that it is all Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's fault. But since the ultimate test of a Truman wannabe is "the buck stops here," Bush must take responsibility for climbing down in the Middle East and elsewhere in a way Truman never did. World War II U.S. General Douglas MacArthur was a far more revered figure than the mid-level bureaucrats responsible for the controversial U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iran's nuclear program. Yet when the general challenged his policy, Truman promptly sacked him and reasserted presidential control. In his 1948 decision to recognize Israel, Truman overruled secretary of state George C. Marshal, a figure of somewhat more gravitas than Prof. Rice. But when Bush had to choose between the made-in-foggy-bottom Condi approach and the more assertive policies advocated by Dick Cheney and John Bolton, he caved in totally. Contributing editor Amiel Ungar is a columnist for the Makor Rishon weekly and the national religious monthly Nekuda. Extract from an article in Issue 22, February 18, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here.