Although I was no fan of the "Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict" when it was unveiled nearly a year ago, and always expected it not to work, I modified my opposition after a trip to Washington in early July 2003 convinced me that Bush administration officials had a "modesty of … aspirations" that suggested they would not respond to its failure by redoubling their efforts (as had done certain Israeli governments) but would soberly reassess the situation. That meant the damage of the effort would be limited and there could be certain benefits from trying, yet one more time, to see whether the Palestinians were willing to co-exist with Israel. (Indeed, the recent Hamas atrocities seem to have convinced the Europeans to ban the organization.) But the question still remained, would the Bush administration be true to its word? I worried about the all-too-human temptation to push a failing plan even harder.
The good news is, the administration is indeed true to its word. Note the report in today's Washington Post:
President Bush yesterday called for an aggressive crackdown on Palestinian militant groups, saying the dismantlement of those groups is "probably the most important condition for peace to prevail."
Bush's remarks, his first since the newest cycle of violence began, suggested the administration will not publicly try to dissuade Israel from targeting groups or individuals responsible for a recent wave of suicide bombings. The Israeli military in recent days has targeted leaders of the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas—narrowly missing one leader but killing his son yesterday — in operations that have flattened Palestinian buildings.
In the past the administration has warned Israel of the "consequences" of such attacks and has officially disapproved of assassinations. But Bush yesterday did not repeat those words of caution, and instead placed the onus on the newly appointed Palestinian prime minister….
The "parties need to be responsible for creating the conditions necessary for peace to prevail," Bush said. "Probably the most important condition for peace to prevail is for all parties to fight off terror, to dismantle organizations whose intent is to destroy the vision of peace."
Some administration officials interpreted that statement as giving a green light to Israel to undertake a tough military response to Hamas. "It's hard not to draw that conclusion," one official said. "The White House is reluctant to criticize the Israelis when they are victims of terrorist activities." (September 10, 2003)