Today the countdown begins: only 366 days left of the Bush administration (2008 is a leap year). On this day a year from now we will be swearing in a new president — provided that Dick Cheney’s office doesn’t dream up any new emergency powers of the presidency between now and then.
It’s amazing the degree to which President Bush has become a non-entity, given the collapse of the Bush Doctrine, the scuttling of their Iran agenda and the death of their domestic agenda as long ago as the defeat of the Bush Social Security privatization program in 2005. Of course, given the power and prerogative of the presidency, he could precipitate a crisis at any moment.
The turn of Bush & Co. to an announced program of peace in Israel — after seven years of neglect — is transparently unserious. Such efforts may play to a domestic audience, but, as in so many other issues, the administration seems unaware that the parties to such a peace have national security establishments of their own, bristling with salaried employees whose job it is to detect insincerity and deceit on the part of foreign powers. I imagine that whatever playing along the Israelis and Palestinians do is entirely diplomatic nicety.
A president truly committed to peace in Israel-Palestine would have to make it a top line issue for the duration of their administration and probably be prepared to hand off some unfinished business to a successor. And they would have to expend a significant portion of their political capitol on the issue. That means both time, travel and a willingness to take a lot of heat from the religious right and Israel lobby alliance.
Between campaign pandering to Christian Zionists and lame duck legacy hunting, the transformation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a substantive international relations issue, into domestic opportunity for atmospherics is one of the most dangerous capitulations on a very serious foreign policy blight. All roads to peace in the Middle East lead through Israel-Palestine, but in the indispensable nation it has sunk to the level of ethanol subsidies or a commencement address at Bob Jones University.