In last week’s cover article for the Weekly Standard, Elliott Abrams, who most recently served as President Bush’s deputy national security adviser for Global Democracy Strategy, joins a long line of former Bush advisers harkening back to the good old days of George W. Bush’s first term to repudiate policies they helped shape. He takes a swipe at the “visions, dreams, and endless conferences” that marked the Bush administration’s second term policies regarding the Middle East peace process, and extols the “gritty realism” of Bush’s first term — gritty realism that he thinks should be guiding the Obama administration’s policies on the issue.
So what does Abrams mean by gritty realism?
- Accept that “a final status agreement is not now a real-world goal.”
- Realize that instead what we need is “an intense concentration on building Palestinian institutions in the West Bank.”
- And finally, “rethink the recent commitment to leaping all at once to full independence for the Palestinians, and even to break the taboo and rethink that ultimate goal itself.” That includes reconsidering “links to Egypt and Jordan.”
While this may seem like a more convenient path considering the challenges that lay ahead, not least Israeli and Palestinian political fragmentation and deadlock, it is fundamentally wrong.
For starters, Marc Lynch already debunked the Egypt/Jordan links last month pointing out that no one who would be part of this solution –- the Jordanians, Egyptians or Palestinians -– has any interest in it.
The problem with Bush’s second term policies was not that he got too excited about diplomacy. It was that he ignored the peace process for seven years and then took an essential concept –- the combination of progress on final status issues, implementation of Road Map obligations (including for the Israelis a settlement freeze and improving movement and access in the West Bank and for Palestinians fighting terrorism and building security forces) and the building of Palestinian institutions -– and failed to implement the necessary processes to ensure that progress was made on all three simultaneously.