When there is no solution, there is no problem, observed James Burnham, the former Trotskyite turned Cold War geostrategist.
Burnham's insight came again to mind as President Bush ended his meeting with Ehud Olmert by announcing that the Israeli prime minister had brought with him some "bold ideas" for peace.
And what bold ideas might that be?
Olmert wants Bush to remain steadfast in refusing to talk to the Hamas-dominated Palestinian Authority. He wants U.S. support for Israel's wall that is fencing in large slices of the West Bank and all of Jerusalem, forever denying the Palestinians a viable state. He wants U.S. recognition of Israeli-drawn lines as the final borders of Israel. And he wants America to remove the "existential threat" of Iran.
In the six months before he proceeds unilaterally with this Sharon-Olmert plan, he will be happy to talk with Mahmoud Abbas, the isolated Palestinian president he has called "powerless."
What is the Bush plan to advance our interests in the Middle East? There is none. For five years, the Bush policy has been to sign off on whatever Sharon put in front of him. And now that Bush is weak, he is not going to pick a fight he cannot win and, in candor, he does not want.
For Bush has signed on to the Sharon agenda. And if he had a policy that clashed with the Sharon-Olmert Plan, political realities would prevent his pursuing it.
Consider: Suppose Bush declared that Ehud Olmert's proposed withdrawals from the West Bank were insufficient, that an official Palestinian presence in East Jerusalem was imperative, and that the United States needed to aid the Palestinians whom Israel is starving out and to talk in back channels to Hamas, even as we talked to Libya's Col. Khadafi to convince him to give up terrorism and his weapons of mass destruction.
Bush's and America's stock might rise worldwide. But here in the United States, it would be another story altogether.
We would hear the cry of "Munich!" from neoconservatives, echoed by Evangelical Christians and the religious right. "Bibi" Netanyahu would be a fixture on Fox News, which would be asking hourly if Bush had taken leave of his senses.
Republican congressmen would be force-bused to the next AIPAC convention to repudiate the Bush policy. Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Harry Reid, seeing an opening to win back Jewish votes lost to Bush, would introduce a resolution putting Congress behind Olmert, against Bush.
Then, as his father did on the loan guarantees for Israel that he briefly held up in 1991, Bush would capitulate.
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