No Hope for Peace in the Middle East

From Holden:

Not while your preznit is seeking advice from someone to the right of Ariel Sharon.

Those looking for clues about President Bush’s second-term policy for the Middle East might be interested to know that, nine days after his reelection victory, the president summoned to the White House an Israeli politician so hawkish that he has accused Ariel Sharon of being soft on the Palestinians.

Bush met for more than an hour on Nov. 11 with Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident now known as a far-right member of the Israeli cabinet. Joined by Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr., incoming national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley and administration Mideast specialist Elliot Abrams, Bush told Sharansky that he was reading the Israeli’s new book, “The Case for Democracy,” and wanted to know more. Sharansky, with co-author Ron Dermer, had a separate meeting with Condoleezza Rice, later chosen by Bush to be the next secretary of state.

Sharansky made waves this spring when he rallied with Jewish settlers to oppose the Likud prime minister’s plan for a unilateral pullout from Gaza — a plan that Bush had endorsed. Sharansky, head of a Russian immigrant political party, said Sharon’s plan, though supported by a number of Likud hard-liners, would be “encouraging more terror.” A figure who has previously railed against the “illusions of Oslo” and described that famous accord as “one-sided concessions,” Sharansky resigned in 2000 from Ehud Barak’s government over the Labor prime minister’s plan to attend a peace summit in Washington.

“He’s been suffering in the political wilderness in Israel with these ideas for some time,” Dermer said of his co-author. But when it came to Bush, Dermer said, “I didn’t see a lot of daylight between them.”