Today during the White House press briefing, a reporter asked press secretary Dana Perino if President Bush is “okay with” the conflict between Hamas and Israel continuing as he leaves office and if “there any kind of sense within the White House that he’d like to wrap things up or at least achieve a resolution” before next Tuesday.
Perino said that when it comes to protecting and caring for Palestinian civilians, “there is no time limit on that.” But a second reporter noted that Bush had previously said he would “sprint to the finish” and wondered if he was “working the phones” to get a deal done. Perino brushed off any notion of Bush working on the issue, claiming that its more “appropriate” for Rice to be doing the talking:
Q: But when is the last time he had direct conversations with people brokering the Egyptian-French cease-fire –
PERINO: The President isn’t doing that; he has a Secretary of State who he has working on that and that’s who should be — that’s absolutely appropriate, is to have his Secretary of State working on that.
But Bush himself has previously worked the phones with international leaders and heads of state to help alleviate conflicts and crises. In fact, there are photographs of him doing it — in one he is talking with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown about the global financial crisis and in another, he’s on the phone with the Senegalese president discussing the situation in Darfur. In a July 2006, press conference, Bush described his personal touch in getting involved with North Korea:
BUSH: And so I was on the phone this morning with Hu Jintao and President Putin, and last night I talked to Prime Minister Koizumi and President Roh. And my message was that we want to solve this problem diplomatically, and the best way to solve the problem diplomatically is for all of us to be working in concert, and to send one message, and that is — to Kim Jong-il — that we expect you to adhere to international norms and we expect you to keep your word.
Moreover, Perino is wrong. Last January, Bush did set a time limit on the Israel-Palestine situation, saying “there will be a signed peace treaty by the time I leave office,” adding, “I am on a timetable — got 12 months.” So perhaps Bush has just checked out and is no longer interested in Middle East peace. After all, last week, he said he is “eager for a more carefree life in Dallas.”