US President George Bush's recent visits to Israel, timed to coincide with that country's 60th anniversary celebrations, and to the World Economic Forum, held in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, were meant to consolidate the Middle East peace process. At least, that's what White House spokespersons tell us. Instead, it served to expose his partisanship like never before.
Whereas the US president's pro-Israel bias is well-known, during previous visits to this region, he has sought to maintain a flimsy façade of being an honest broker. In the past, he has used diplomatic-speak to persuade major players that he wants the best for all concerned and is sincere about getting the peace process back on track.
On this occasion, he didn't even bother to keep up the pretence. With only little more than six months left in office, it seems he's decided to reward his Christian Zionist base with a vivid display of his true colors.
His speech, last Thursday, before the Israeli Knesset will arguably go down in history as the most sycophantic ever delivered by a US president to an allied nation. More than praise, the president's words were adoring, even worshipful.
He thrust the state of Israel on a pinnacle of democracy, liberty, justice and respect for human rights. He assured its people that Americans would stand by them no matter what, condemned their enemies as anti-Semitic lovers of violence and labeled US politicians who would talk with Hamas or Hezbollah as naïve appeasers. He regretted that former Israeli President Ariel Sharon — dubbed 'the Butcher of Beirut' throughout the Arab world — was unable to join in the celebrations. Most crucially, he told Israeli lawmakers that Jews are the 'chosen people' to whom Israel was promised and assured them that Americans would make certain it remained theirs in perpetuity.
...in Egypt. Once again, Bush chucked diplomatic-speak and chose, instead, to sternly lecture Arab delegates on democratic political reform, religious tolerance, and treatment of political prisoners, with his harshest comments. He forgot that Hamas was fairly and freely elected before being labeled "terrorist." He forgot that his own soldiers in Baghdad have been using the Holy Qu'ran as target practice, and when it comes to political prisoners still being held in his Guantanamo gulag without trial he's developed convenient amnesia.
Bush also called for the "pushing back" of countries he termed "spoilers" such as Iran and Syria and asked all countries in the region to confront Hamas "which is attempting to undermine efforts at peace with acts of terror and violence."
And incredibly he sung the praises of those marvelous examples of democracy and freedom in action — Iraq and Afghanistan. Yes, delegates had a hard time suppressing their laughter too.
Source: "Bush's Visit Fails to Jump Start Middle East Peace," by Linda Heard. Arab News. May 22, 2008.