BUSH PROMOTES A PALESTINIAN "RIGHT OF RETURN"
By Dr. Daniel Pipes
A year later, White House Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino adopted the term, though without much notice. Out of seemingly nowhere, she informed journalists at a press briefing on November 28, 2007, that "The right of return issue is a part of the road map [to peace] and it's going to be one of the issues that the Israelis and the Palestinians have to talk about during … negotiations."
Indeed, on schedule, "right of return" emerged as a motif before and during George W. Bush's recent trip to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, when he mentioned it three times publicly:
January 9: At a joint press conference with Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, he referred to the core issues of the conflict as "territory and right of return and Jerusalem."
January 10: In a parallel joint press conference with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, he stated that the two-state idea "really doesn't have much bearing until borders are defined, right of return issues resolved, Jerusalem is understood, … [and] the common security measures will be in place."
In a different setting, also on January 10, Bush, somewhat elusively, stated his belief that "we need to look to the establishment of a Palestinian state and new international mechanisms, including compensation, to resolve the refugee issue." Is the "right of return" to be one of those new international mechanisms?
(2) When the Iraq Study Group Report first appeared, analysts puzzled over the "right of return" mention, as one person close to the process explained: "It's hard to know whether that language got in there because of carelessness – I know there were many revisions up to the very last minute – or whether it was a deliberate attempt to fuse something to the Bush rhetoric which wasn't there before." Retrospectively, it appears that the reference was indeed intentional – and quite successful in its purpose. "The Lurker" concludes, perhaps correctly, that James A. Baker, III, lead author of the Iraq Study Group Report, "has once again become a major factor in setting U.S. Middle East policy."
(3) This is only one of several problematic statements from the Bush administration, such as the President's morally equivalent reference to "terrorism and incitement, whether committed by Palestinians or Israelis" or Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's calling the Arab-Israeli conflict the central issue of the Middle East and seeing Palestinians as analogous to Southern blacks.
(4) Bush prefaced his January 10 comment by asserting, "I'm the only President that's really articulated a two-state solution so far," and he is right. Put differently, he is the only U.S. President to promote a "Palestine" and now to call for a Palestinian "right of return." More broadly, throughout his Presidency, Bush has marched to his own drummer on the Arab-Israeli issue, offering novel and personal solutions to a century-old problem and throwing out the rulebook on Arab-Israeli diplomacy.
(5) One can only guess how often Bush raised the "right of return" in his private conversations with Israelis and Palestinians, and with what intensity and pressure.
(6) Looking ahead, to the last year of the Bush Presidency, quoting myself: "should the Israelis resist a joint U.S.-Palestinian position, I see a possible crisis in U.S.-Israel relations of unprecedented proportions." I am not predicting this will happen, but noting that the pieces are all in place for such a development.
(7) Although Bush is "seen by many Israelis as the best friend the Jewish state has had in the White House," I have long doubted that characterization, and now more so than ever.
© Daniel Pipes 2008
Originally Published in Front Page Magazine, January 14, 2008
Republished with the Permission of Daniel Pipes
Reprinted from the Daniel Pipes Mailing List, January 14, 2008
Article URL: http://www.danielpipes.org/article/5373
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Dr. Daniel Pipes, a Ph.D. in Islamic History (Harvard University, 1978), is the Founder and Director of the Middle East Forum, the Founder of Campus Watch, a signatory of the Project for the New American Century, a former board member of the U.S. Institute of Peace, a former adjunct scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a Golden Circle supporter of the U.S. Committee for a Free Lebanon, a former member of the U.S. Department of Defense Special Task Force on Terrorism and Technology, and a former lecturer at the U.S. Naval War College, Harvard University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Pipes was the Director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute from 1986 to 1993.
Author or co-author of eighteen books, Dr. Pipes is a regular columnist for Front Page Magazine, the New York Sun, and the Jerusalem Post. His analyses of world trends and of forces and developments in the Middle East have appeared in numerous North American newspapers, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He frequently appears on American network television, as well as at universities and think tanks, to discuss the Middle East, Islam, and the Islamist threat to the U.S.A. and the West. He also has appeared on BBC and Al Jazeera, and has lectured in approximately twenty-five countries.
Dr. Pipes is a Polish-American Jew whose parents fled Poland in 1939, immigrated to the U.S.A., and assimilated well into
American society and culture. His father is Richard Pipes, an American historian specializing in Russian and Soviet history
and serving as Professor of History at Harvard University from 1950 until his retirement in 1996. During the Cold War, the
worldview of Richard Pipes was strongly anti-Soviet and anti-Communist.
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