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Dean on Israel/Palestine
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I heard Howard Dean interviewed on NPR today, and the interviewer asked him what he would do differently in Iraq.

He said he'd get the involvement of more allies, specifically Muslim nations.

The interviewer asked him how he would do that, considering that most Muslim nations haven't expressed much of an interest to help so far.

He said, basically, that he would do two things: be nice to them, and resolve the Israel/Palestine conflict. He said that Bush's attitude personality is what has kept Muslim allies from joining up to send troops and money to Iraq. But he also said that Bush had "failed to engage" the Israel/Palestine issue.

So the interviewer asked him what he would do differently.

His answer: I'd send Bill Clinton to the Middle East.

Now, I'm not a big fan of Bill Clinton's, but I know that he is one of the most informed people in the world when it comes to the Israel/Palestine conflict. But the interviewer asked a very good question: Would Clinton talk to Yasser Arafat?

Dean said, no, that wouldn't be appropriate. He agreed that the Bush Administration was correct in having nothing to do with Arafat, who he said was not a real broker for peace.

Then the interviewer changed the subject. But I wanted to know, how in the hell do you broker a peace agreement between two parties when you refuse to talk to the leader of one? How exactly is Dean's position different from Bush's?

Bush has basically said, "Look, I want peace between Israel and Palestine. The world would be a much better place with a Palestinian state, living side by side in peace with Israel (and I'm the first President to opening and repeatedly say this). But we're not going to deal with Arafat, a billionaire terrorist scumbag who does not have the interests of the Palestinian people in mind, but only his own power."

One Palestinian Prime Minister has already resigned in disgust, refusing to be a puppet of Arafat's, and now a second looks close to doing the same. Arafat simply is not going to peacefully cede power to anyone else, and he's not going to broker peace with Israel, because it's not in his best interest. He's fashioned his entire identity around being an underdog, a "freedom fighter" for the downtrodden Palestinian. He doesn't have the first clue about how to run a peaceful state, where at the first sign of domestic intranquility he can shout about how it's the Jews fault. He doesn't have the first damn clue about how to build up and run a real state, building real infrastructure, caring for people's needs, and so on. He is defined by the conflict, by his role as scrappy underdog. And he would lose that with a peace agreement...which is why he will never sign one.

Bush's strategy of ignoring Arafat, trying to marginalize him politically until a reasonable, moderate Palestinian with some ability to actually deal can come to power is the right one.

And in terms of dealing with Arafat, Dean is right too. But what's absolutely mind-boggling is how he can agree with this premise on one hand, and criticize Bush for "not being engaged" on the other.

Who the fuck is he supposed to engage with? You need two parties to mediate between in a conflict. Dean is agreeing that one side can't be dealt with with their current leadership.

So that brings us back to Bush's policy of trying to encourage moderate, peace-minded leadership to edge Arafat out, so that an honest brokering of peace can be made.

Does Dean have a better plan than this? Or is Clinton going to go over there to sit at the table with Israeli representatives on one side of the table and a bucket of figs on the other?

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