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Bush's Speech Put the Burden on Palestinians

June 27, 2002

Re "Bush Declares His Path," editorial, June 25: President Bush could not have been clearer that Yasser Arafat has to go. Nor could he have been more emphatic in rejecting the idea of cosmetic reforms that would simply reinforce the existing regime. This marks a historic departure from the "let's pretend" universe in which previous diplomatic initiatives took place. Bush also paired his expressions of solidarity with Israeli suffering under terrorist attack--noting that even Israeli kindergartens are now under armed guard--with sympathy for Palestinians suffering under their own regime. He described Palestinians, accurately, as "pawns" but avoided mentioning whose pawns they were--the Arab regimes'.

For years, the U.S. acted as if the real obstacle to peace was Israel's reluctance to give up land. The great breakthrough in this speech was the unmistakable shift in the U.S. interpretation of the root causes of the conflict. The concept of land for peace has been relegated to where it should have been all along: a reflection or ratification of peace, rather than its source or cause.

Mature democracies rarely war with each other. Now the president has noted this fact and embraced its wisdom. For this alone, he stands at the cusp of greatness.

Neil J. Stone

Reseda

*

Re "A Palestinian State Requires New Leadership, Bush Says," June 25: Bush has washed his hands of the Middle East. By linking any peace initiative to a regime change in the Palestinian Authority he has sent the message that he cannot find a way out of the political morass he, his advisors and Ariel Sharon have created. He hopes that by postponing the issue for a political eternity--at least 18 months--American and world attention will shift from his failings as a Middle East peacemaker to other, more flattering topics.

Perhaps he thinks that his claims to world leadership will be vindicated by a successful invasion of Iraq in about 12 months. But the Middle East is filled with people and leaders who don't forget, and America's self-serving consignment of the Palestinian problem to time and the malign workings of Sharon will long be remembered. The American people should also consider how long the world and our country can endure the intellectual and moral vacuum that is George W. Bush before the need for true leadership by the world's only superpower can no longer be ignored.

Peter Lee

Los Angeles

*

Bush said exactly what needed to be said. There was no diplomacy in his language, just blunt American policy that spared no punches on Arafat's failed leadership. The gauntlet has been tossed to the Palestinians. If they continue on the road of suicide-murder, they will have no support from the U.S. and could risk moving into the cross hairs of our war against terrorism.

Lionel De Leon

Garden Grove

*

Although the Palestinians live in "squalor and occupation," Bush believes the burden rests squarely on their shoulders to produce "new leaders, new institutions and new security arrangements with their neighbors." What do the Palestinians get in return? A "provisional state" that sounds a lot like the crazy patchwork of autonomous zones that came out of the Oslo accords. Israeli "settlement activity" will be brought to a halt when Israel sees fit. Someday the Palestinians and Israelis will somehow work out final borders, the status of Jerusalem and the refugee issue. Yet no timeline, framework or basic ideas were set down by Bush.

Oslo took nearly a decade of vague promises to accomplish nothing, and this plan represents more of the same. In the meantime, the occupation and the settlements continue. Hard times call for bold leadership, and Bush's speech missed the mark once again.

John Corbett

Summerland

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