Rest assured that Bush, more than any other American President, means what he says. This has been his problem with most countries of the world, including us Arabs. Despite the problems his frankness has caused him, it has been a good trait on occasion.
Bush has pledged in the Annapolis Conference to exert efforts to establish a Palestinian state as part of a broad peace agreement. This was the first time he has made such a pledge. We hope he will do the same thing he did when he promised to topple Saddam, and he did, and promised to pursue Bin Laden and has not stopped until now.
All those who dealt with him say that he is a firm President, although he has not always been successful in the goals he chooses. As long as he, like all the presidents who preceded him, wants to put his signature on a historic project to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict or some of it, then let us try to help him do the right thing, benefiting from his determination and firmness.
This does not mean that the President will be able to make a change in a bad situation, whether in Israel, the Arab World, or even in Washington where his weakness is increasing as his presidential term nears its end. However, the President is still able to exert pressure on the Israelis, the Europeans, and Japan as partners whose political and economic support we need.
As we know, Bush is the only President that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon feared. Although the Israelis are detracting from the importance of Bush now, they definitely know that it is not in their interest to clash with him. They usually leave it to the Arabs to do that so they would appear as the party that always wanted peace and desired cooperation with the United States.
The fact is that by inviting Syria, President Bush has made a successful practical step and nipped in the bud major problems that could have flared before the conference had started. Furthermore, inviting the Syrians bestowed credibility on the conference and gave hope to the parties aspiring for peace in the future. The American President now must exercise his remaining influence to impose a solution on the Arabs and Israelis. He has an opportunity that no other president has had in trying to achieve peace in the region. The Arabs came to the conference with an Arab peace initiative signed by 20 Arab states and 40 Islamic states. This initiative practically makes a solution very possible. What remains for President Bush is to pressure the Israelis to accept the only possible solution: land for peace. The solution has become easy irrespective of what is said about its complexity. A simple solution demands a strong president.
The establishment of a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank has become an acceptable idea to almost all the Arabs. A few years ago, they regarded even the thought of such a state as treason. The Israelis now are realizing more than ever that their security had become weaker. This became evident in last year’s summer war when Hezbollah was able to fire modern missiles at normally secure Israeli cities. The Israelis no longer feel secure, and the Arabs are not impractical anymore.
Peace needs a serious and firm American President and not new ideas. Bush, whom the Arabs have hated very much, could be the only President able to achieve it.