William F. Buckley
Tuesday morning we learned that the king of Jordan snubbed the president of the United States. He was angered, the press reports, by Mr. Bush's sudden moves last week on the Israel question. What Mr. Bush did was (1) back Ariel Sharon on his proposed removal of all Israeli military from the Gaza Strip, (2) reject the Palestinian contention that there was a "right of return" for descendants of the 1948 dispossessed, and (3) advise that the United States would have no objection to Israel's retaining several large and important settlements in the West Bank. So? The king canceled his proposed stay in Washington.

If you think Jordan's King Abdullah was acting precipitately, you have lost count of diplomatic currents and crosscurrents in the recent season. Jordan's rebuff came after one week of excoriations by Egypt's Hosni Mubarak. It is serious business to antagonize Mubarak, though one wonders whether he would be irritated to the point of declining our subsidy for him of $2 billion per year.

(My occasional reminder to myself of the magnitude of sums of money followed by nine zeroes: If the day Christ died you set out to give $1 million every year to your favorite charity, you would not yet, April 2004, have spent $2 billion.)

Complicity by Egypt made possible the great meeting between Sadat and Begin, though almost everything since then has gone sour -- and the Israeli settlements were a part of the problem, offset by anti-Israeli terrorism featuring the suicide bombers.

The diplomatic thicket ... thickened. A few weeks ago, an Israeli helicopter bore down on Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the venerable leader of the Hamas movement, indeed its founder. When that happened, a few hours passed before the United States condemned the killing, pursuant to our general line that targeted assassinations of leaders should not be permitted, let alone encouraged. That delay hugely galled the Palestinians. From this, the administration learned a lesson, so that when four weeks after assassinating the first Hamas leader, the Israelis assassinated his successor, Dr. Abdel Aziz Rantisi, the White House was much quicker in repudiating the act, inasmuch as the United States is "gravely concerned for regional peace and stability."

William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley, Jr. is editor-at-large of National Review, the prolific author of Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography.

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