Opinion Peter Philipp

Bush Plays Own Fiddle in Mideast

In a surprising U-turn, Washington has agreed to the expansion of several Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories. The EU, the UN and Russia now ought to take a stand. A commentary by Peter Philipp

photo: AP
Controversial Israeli settlements could be cleared or expanded

​​When one person in a quartet starts playing to his own tune, it's up to the other three to either coerce the renegade back into the fray or reform as a trio. And what goes for music does for politics, too.

In a bid to secure lasting peace in the Middle East, the Americans, Europeans, Russians and the United Nations formed such a quartet, drawing up a simple yet plausible plan for future harmony in the region.

The roadmap, as it is known, calls for a stop to violence and the gradual withdrawal of Israeli troops from the occupied territories, so as to clear the way for the creation of a Palestinian state.

It may not be a revolutionary concept, but it is an international consensus which could ultimately convince the conflicting parties that peace is a genuine option.

Support for Sharon

But that's not the way this story goes. Washington is now veering away from the consensus by pledging to support Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plans to expand existing settlements in the West Bank. For the Palestinians, the decision is a slap in the face, the ultimate American betrayal.

President George Bush, well-known for his excessively pro-Israel stand, has never made a secret of his unequivocal support for Scharon, but every now and then, he has gone the extra mile in the other direction.

Back in April for example, he got Sharon - during his visit to the states - to agree to withdraw from the Gaza strip, four West Bank settlements and a host of smaller, unofficial sites that were even "illegal" in the Israelis' view.

In return, Bush promised Sharon that Israel would not have to give up all its settlements in the West Bank under the peace deal.

Jeopardizing efforts to reach an agreement

It was this pledge which led to the first sign of cracks in the quartet, with accusations that Washington was moving away from the roadmap and jeopardizing efforts to reach an agreement.

The White House countered that this was not its intention, and a little later when Sharon announced his decision to build new settlements, he received a stern warning that the roadmap does not provide for such constructions.

Everything seemed to be back to normal, at least until Sharon rocked the boat anew. The "construction of new settlements," became the "expansion of existing settlements," and this time Washington has given the nod.

New settlements "disguised" as old ones

As if it has forgotten the old "expansion" tactic which started years ago when new settlements were constructed close to existing ones and given the same names with the addition of "A, B or C."

That process suddenly led to the existence of several settlements of the same name, which Israel claimed were all part of the same place, but which in reality, were totally different entities. The world, particularly the US, allowed itself to be deceived, and nothing was done.

And now it could happen again - only this time the tactic isn't new, and in addition everyone knows that the existing settlements, which are supposed to be given up for peace, are not exactly overpopulated.

Sharon's action is a tactical trick, such as might be expected from him. But Washington's support is political idiocy and small-mindedness. The Bush administration is endangering the implementation of the roadmap - perhaps because of upcoming elections - and the consensus of the quartet thus far.

It is now up to the other three members to either bury the roadmap, to convince Washington to backtrack or to form a new ensemble.

Peter Philipp

DEUTSCHE WELLE/DW-WORLD.DE © 2004

Related Topics
In submitting this comment, the reader accepts the following terms and conditions: Qantara.de reserves the right to edit or delete comments or not to publish them. This applies in particular to defamatory, racist, personal, or irrelevant comments or comments written in dialects or languages other than English. Comments submitted by readers using fantasy names or intentionally false names will not be published. Qantara.de will not provide information on the telephone. Readers' comments can be found by Google and other search engines.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.