A Texas connection in Annapolis

Roger Cohen:

The Palestinians are the cause of exiting and ex-presidents. There’s no electoral payback in supporting them. Jews and Israel-loving evangelicals dwarf any Arab lobby to the extent it’s not even funny.

President Bush is on the exit track. It’s time to rectify the fundamental error he made in allowing war-on-terror rhetoric to discredit the Palestinian national movement.

His best hope in Annapolis may be the Texas connection. If Bush gets behind Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister who attended the University of Texas, things may move. But he has to stick with him.

Fayyad, 55, is the can-do face of the Palestinian movement. Like his people, he’s long been in the wilderness. Unlike many of them, he hasn’t succumbed to the culture of the victim. “One year,” he said in an hour-long conversation, “is more than adequate to come to a peace treaty and end this conflict.”


The Palestinians are desperate because they are at a dead end. They’ve been the losers over six decades through ineptitude, corruption, Arab hypocrisy and their susceptibility to victims’ hollow consolations. As Fayyad noted, “Last year more than 50,000 Palestinians emigrated. How is that consistent with ending the occupation?”

Israeli desperation is quieter. The economy has blossomed, but not the Israeli soul. Four decades of occupation since the 1967 war have been a scourge. Jewish precariousness persists. The diaspora Jew did not go to Zion to build the Jew among nations.

Bush faces Palestinian weakness and compromised Israeli strength. He must offset weakness by standing with the Palestinians on core demands. He must insist on Israeli sacrifice — territorial and ideological — in the name of U.S.-guaranteed security. “Without peace,” Bush should tell the Israelis, “the Arab birth rate and the jihadist tide will eventually wash over you.”


I asked Fayyad how he’d reassure Israel about security. He became animated. “Political pluralism is fine, but I can’t tolerate security pluralism. There’s no such thing as militias running around taking decisions! That has led to catastrophe. Law and order is basic. I said in a speech the other day that Nablus is more important than Annapolis! It is. The people of Nablus need security, just like Israelis.”

And Hamas? “The Palestinian state will be in the West Bank and Gaza, so the current situation is a big problem for implementation. But we’re not there yet. We are talking about a binding agreement with the state of Israel. Our domestic situation will be sorted out by then.”

Fayyad continued: “I want to end the occupation yesterday! I feel no less strongly than these Hamas people talking about resistance. But we have to mean what we say. In 1993, we renounced violence and recognized Israel. We must stick with that.”


Cohen is writing on the NY Times Op-ed page so he is obligated to through in a great deal of Bush basing which makes his piece somewhat incoherent. He leaves out the part about all the exploding Palestinians that accompanied the earlier Bush administration efforts in the conflict. The NY Times rewrite of history is that no effort was made until now. These omissions make much of their criticism fraudulent.

There is also the incoherence of within two paragraphs discussing Palestinian migration away from the area, but arguing later that their birthrate would overwhelm Israel. Perhaps exporting people may be the Palestinians more productive area. It is certainly better than sending them out to explode around Israelis.

If the new Palestinian leader is a graduate of UT good for him. Perhaps Bush can flash the "Hook'em Horns" sign when they meet and they can talk about what went wrong in the A&M game on Friday. Fixing that problem will probably be easier than fixing what is wrong with the Palestinians. At least Fayyad understands the security problem, but whether he can do anything about so that he will be offering Israel something of value is the real question on which an agreement hinges. All those issues where Cohen wants Israeli concessions are meaningless if Fayyad cannot deliver on security.

The Washington Post talks about why Annapolis was chosen for the conference. It is a beautiful city and the nautical theme may disconcerting for a group of people from the desert. The site of the conference features "the dying command of James Lawrence, captain of the USS Chesapeake, who was mortally wounded during a naval battle with the British during the War of 1812." Don't give up the ship may become a metaphor for the conference.

Peter Brooks discusses the low expectations for the conference. Barry Rubin in Israel has similar low expectations.


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