In his latest effort to look busy on the Israeli-Palestinian front, President Bush has now proposed a regional conference to be chaired by Secretary of State Condi Rice, in which Israel would join its Arab neighbors at the table. But lest this sound like a peace conference, don’t be fooled. Its purpose, a U.S. official told Haaretz, will be “to review progress toward building Palestinian institutions, look for ways to support further reforms and support the effort going on right now between the parties together.” If that sounds mushy, that’s precisely the intention. It’s all about “looking busy” without actually doing anything; “bolstering” a new Palestinian regime whose purpose in Israeli and American eyes is simply to serve as a gendarmerie for Israel’s security.
Israel has no interest in discussing a final-status two-state solution with Abbas. It has made clear that it will confine itself to “confidence-building” measures, such as taking Fatah gunmen off Israel’s wanted list if the movement agrees to turn its weapons on Hamas. The latest gestures fall well within the approach recently explained to Jewish Republicans by Elliot Abrams, White House Middle East policy director. As the Jewish Daily Forward reported, Elliot reassured his audience that “lot of what is done during Rice’s frequent trips to the region is ‘just process’ — steps needed in order to keep the Europeans and moderate Arab countries ‘on the team’ and to make sure they feel that the United States is promoting peace in the Middle East.” In other words, looking busy.