Al-Ahram Weekly Online   5 - 11 June 2008
Issue No. 900
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Bush's two deaths

The shift in President Bush's thinking on the Palestinian problem is a bit puzzling. A few years ago, he talked about establishing an independent and viable Palestinian state before the end of his second term. He even boasted that he was the only US president to ever promise the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The promised state was supposed to include the West Bank and Gaza with a linking road -- perhaps a tunnel or bridge -- to keep the territorial integrity of that new state. But in the last year of his presidency, and as Arabs and the world awaited the fulfilment of his promise, Bush started talking about something totally different.

Now the US president wants to "visualise" the traits of a new Palestinian state, rather than "establish" it. In his recent speech to the Knesset, he called on his audience to visualise the way the region should look 60 years from now. Has the US president gone back on his words? The answer is yes, and then some.

Visualising a state is not even close to creating it. To appreciate the difference, one has to take a closer look at the Palestinian scene, as well as the Israeli and US stance. The takeover by Hamas in Gaza made it unlikely, if not impossible, for Hamas to take part in the peace process. Washington and Tel Aviv now agree that Gaza cannot, in its current situation, be part of the Palestinian state the Israelis and Americans have in mind.

But the Israelis and Americans want to keep talking about a Palestinian state, if only to avoid embarrassing their moderate Palestinian and Arab friends, and if only to make the US president look like someone who means what he says. So the Israelis and Americans now speak of an "administrative state" to be declared in parts of the West Bank, with absolutely no geographical or political links to Gaza.

Gaza, we're told, may join the Palestinian West Bank state in the future once its situation changes; namely, once it is no longer under Hamas control. The US and Israel are not averse to helping Gaza make up its mind, mainly by pressuring it through military and economic tactics. The idea is to make life a living hell in Gaza and a bit more acceptable in the West Bank, until the day the Gaza people decide that enough is enough.

One wonders, then, if such a Palestinian state, whatever its special traits, is advisable. Is it not better to keep the situation as it is for now? Is it not better to stay under Israeli occupation than to accept such a demotion of hope? Only the Palestinians, in both the West Bank and Gaza, can answer these questions. Sadly their choice is between death by starvation and sitting down to a poisoned meal.

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