Amid unprecedented security measures began President George W. Bush’s week-long tour in the Middle East, which was launched yesterday with a visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories. This visit was followed with visits to Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. His tour will conclude with a visit to Egypt on January 16.
There is no doubt that the stated goal of the visit is to push the peace process between the Palestinians and Israel with the aim of reaching agreement before the end of its presidency later this year, as well as seeking to persuade the countries of the region, of what the American administration calls ‘Iranian danger’. However, expectations of the visit with regard to progress in the peace process seem to be limited to non-existent in light of Israel’s current procrastination and prevarication, which have prevented the Palestinian and Israeli sides from agreeing to set up committees to follow special issues regarding the final status. All this despite the passing of more than one and a half months from the Conference of Annapolis.
Is it really possible that Bush’s visit coincides with the announcements of Israel’s insistence to continue its settlement policy in the occupied Palestinian territories – the latest of which was the announcement of the construction of new housing units in the settlement of Ras al-Amud in East Jerusalem, which is supposed to be consistent with the vision of two States and which city is to be the capital of the future Palestinian state?! Can peace be achieved between the two sides at a time when Israel continues its policies of killing, assassination and sabotage, destruction and razing land on the pretext of hunting down wanted people either in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip … and while it continues to detain more than ten thousand Palestinians in its prisons?!
The concern is that all of the talk about moving the peace process is just a smokescreen for the visit’s main objective, which is to mobilize countries of the area in the Gulf region against the ‘Iranian threat’ in preparation for setting policies or taking escalatory steps against Iran. The intent is also to ensure that the region does not recognize that the real danger, in fact, is Israel, which is only country in the region that possesses a nuclear arsenal and continues policies of occupation and aggression with absolute support from the American ally.