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July 21, 2006

Today's required reading

At the rally in New York this week, Hillary Clinton winced when Elie Weisel said "Thank God George Bush is President." But I think that most of us realize that if Al Gore was President - let alone John Kerry - there would be enormous pressure on Israel to let up in Lebanon.

An interesting analysis from the front page of today's Washington Post, written by Michael Abramowitz: "In Mideast Strife, Bush Sees a Step To Peace":
President Bush's unwillingness to pressure Israel to halt its military campaign in Lebanon is rooted in a view of the Middle East conflict that is sharply different from that of his predecessors.

* * * * *

"He thinks he is playing in a longer-term game than the tacticians," said the former official, who spoke anonymously so he could discuss his views candidly. "The tacticians would say: 'Get an immediate cease-fire. Deal first with the humanitarian factors.' The president would say: 'You have an opportunity to really grind down Hezbollah. Let's take it, even if there are other serious consequences that will have to be managed.' "

Jack Rosen, chairman of the American Jewish Congress, said Bush's statements reflect an unambiguous view of the situation. "He doesn't seem to allow his vision to be clouded in any way," said Rosen, a Democrat who has come to admire Bush's Middle East policy. "It follows suit. Israel is in the right. Hezbollah is in the wrong. Terrorists have to be eliminated, and he sees Israel fighting the war he would fight against terrorism."
The analysis quotes someone from the New Israel Fund, a left-wing outfit, and amusingly describes it as a group that "pushes for civil rights and justice in Israel." That's the way conservative groups are used to being described, right, without any political identification? Riiiiiiight!

The analysis concludes this way:
Those who know Bush say his view of the conflict was shaped by several formative experiences -- in particular the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which made fighting terrorism the central mission of his presidency. Another formative experience was a helicopter ride over the West Bank with Ariel Sharon in 1998, when Bush was Texas governor -- a ride he later said showed him Israel's vulnerability. The cause of Israel has been championed by many of the evangelical Christians who make up a significant chunk of the president's political base.

Bush and his team were also deeply skeptical of the Middle East policy of the previous administration, and of what they see as an excessive devotion to a peace process in which one of the protagonists, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, was not seriously invested. Explaining the reluctance to push quickly for a cease-fire, one senior administration official who was not authorized to speak on the record indicated a belief that premature diplomacy might leave Hezbollah in a position of strength.

"We don't want the kind of truce that will lead to another conflict," said this official, who added that, when the time comes, "you will see plenty of diplomacy."

Fred S. Zeidman, a Texas venture capitalist who is active in Jewish affairs and has been close to the president for years, said the current crisis shows the depth of the president's support for Israel. "He will not bow to international pressure to pressure Israel," Zeidman said. "I have never seen a man more committed to Israel."
As Elie Wiesel said....