Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Bush insult over settlements

Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert announced during a press conference that construction on controversial settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem would continue.

While it may have been a simple statement of Israeli policy, it was also a slap in the face to his guest President George Bush.

Bush has hinged his presidential legacy in part on getting a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. The settlements are considered by the Palestinians to be a major obstacle in reaching such an agreement. Part of the accords reached in December that began this round of the peace talks were that settlement-building activities would be suspended.

Perhaps Olmert feels that expanding the settlements is vital to Israel’s future. Fine. But to announce their expansion in front of Bush shows a lack of respect both to the process and to Bush personally.

Throughout his presidency Bush has been a staunch ally of Israel. Not only has the United States backed Israel’s security measures in the Palestinian Territories (including their construction of a controversial wall that snakes through the West Bank, cutting some Palestinian towns in two), but the US also supplied Israel with weapons during their military campaign in Lebanon, and has even seemed willing to go to war with Iran for their protection (Iranian missiles cannot reach the US, but they can reach Israel). It’s puzzling then why them Olmert would choose to so publicly insult Bush.

Bush is a proud man. It will be interesting to see if his attitude towards Israel changes, if he becomes more sympathetic to the Palestinian position, because of Olmert’s slight.
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