President Bush appears to have abandoned any hope of creating a new Arab State between Israel and Jordan.
His closest confidante - the Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice - suggested as much when she made this blunt observation after her visit to the Middle East this past week:
“I spent a lot of time on security issues, not on-the-ground today security issues, but how would you envision the security of two states living side by side, because they're going to have to come up with a security concept between them. It's one of the problems that we're dealing with, frankly, in the Israeli population. And I heard it not just from the Israeli officials but from a broad range of Israelis. They had the withdrawal from Lebanon and it brought instability in Lebanon. They had the withdrawal from the Gaza, and look what happened in Gaza.
If, in fact, they're going to be asked to withdraw from the West Bank at some point, what does that mean for the security of Israel? That's a fair question. It really is. And so one of the things that I take back is that we are going to need to spend a lot of time thinking about how this state, if we are fortunate enough to be able to bring it into being, how it is going to relate to the security of its neighbor and vice versa.”
This marks the first time that the Secretary of State has so forcefully come to grips with the security guarantees that Israel needs to receive before the President’s two state vision can ever get off the ground.
It would be inconceivable that she would make these momentous comments without first having discussed them with the President.
Ms. Rice would be well aware that when President Bush first spoke of his two state vision on 24 June 2002, he laid down two preconditions necessary for its achievement:
1.The Palestinian people must elect new leaders not compromised by terror
2.These new leaders must build a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty.
These conditions remain substantially unfulfilled more than 5 years later - and present indications are they are going to be a long time coming - if ever at all.
It was his recognition of this reality that inspired President Bush to call his planned international meeting in Annapolis next month - which he designed essentially to try and advance the fulfilment of these fundamental preconditions. His concern was well founded.
Both persons currently claiming to lead the Palestinian Arabs - Ismail Haniyeh and Mahmoud Abbas - are compromised by terror.
Haniyeh heads Hamas - a movement that openly calls for the destruction of Israel. Abbas - one of Yasser Arafat’s closest advisors - is now the Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation which is no less vehement than Hamas in its desire to wipe Israel off the map. They only differ in the strategy they wish to employ to achieve their common aim.
A practicing democracy based on tolerance and liberty are mere mirages on an invisible horizon.
The Arabs have totally rejected President Bush’s agenda insisting that their attendance at Annapolis be conditioned on substantive agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority being reached before the meeting even begins concerning the core issues of Jerusalem, refugees and borders
Significantly Ms Rice has rebuffed the Arabs attempted hijack of the President’s agenda stating:
“So I know we get very focused on, you know, what will be said about borders, what will be said about Jerusalem, what will be said about the refugees. In fact, a lot has been said over a long period of time about those issues and more will have to be said. But I'm also quite convinced that one of the really crucial pieces that has to be filled in are these concepts of how the states will relate to each other in practical terms concerning security and in practical terms concerning economic issues”
Perhaps the penny is slowly dropping and the realisation is dawning that the Arabs are totally disinterested in Israel’s security concerns and in meeting the very conditions laid down by President Bush as essential if his two state vision is going to be achieved.
The abandonment of the President’s vision does not necessarily mean that the conflict in the West Bank need continue unabated until a democratic nirvana is achieved there under a leader not compromised by terror.
The Arabs have already publicly signalled they would be prepared to consider Israel swapping some of its vacant land in return for keeping those parts of the West Bank populated by 450000 Jews.
Satisfying Israel’s security needs in the context of a territorial resolution that does not involve all of the West Bank remaining under Arab control can be achieved very quickly if Israel and Jordan divide the West Bank between them.
Jordan’s peace treaty with Israel already contains the following guarantees concerning Israel’s security that have stood the test of time for the last 12 years and remained rock solid through several crises:
“1. They recognise and will respect each other's sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence;
2. They recognise and will respect each other's right to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries;
3. They will develop good neighbourly relations of co-operation between them to ensure lasting security, will refrain from the threat or use of force against each other and will settle all disputes between them by peaceful means;”
Negotiations between Jordan and Israel within the framework of this existing peace treaty offer the hope of a better life and prosperity for the Arab residents of the West Bank, will free them from Israeli occupation and achieve a measure of peace stability and security in the region not enjoyed for 60 years.
Such negotiations will not resolve the issue of refugees. No plan can ever hope to do so whilst the Arabs insist on millions of refugees and their descendants becoming citizens of Israel.
Stay with the vision or accept the reality? President Bush at last appears to be succumbing to the reality.