Thursday, January 10, 2008 

No change is big news.

Quite why the BBC is hyping up President Bush's statement while in Israel on the peace talks is unclear. Despite claiming that it's his strongest statement pressing Israel to give up land that it's settled since 1967, he's in actual fact said absolutely nothing that he hasn't before.

The point of departure for permanent status negotiations to realize this vision seems clear. There should be an end to the occupation that began in 1967. The agreement must establish a Palestine as a homeland for the Palestinian people, just as Israel is a homeland for the Jewish people.

These negotiations must ensure that Israel has secure, recognized and defensible borders. And they must ensure that the state of Palestine is viable, contiguous, sovereign and independent.

The only thing he says about the Israeli settlements is that their expansion should be ended. Nothing whatsoever about their dismantlement back to the 1967 lines, which is the only way that a "viable, contiguous, sovereign and independent" Palestine will be established. Bush is instead quite clearly giving his backing to the building of the "security wall", which cuts deep into the West Bank and slashes off all the major settlements on the Israeli side. That such a state established along those lines could never be viable is unmentionable.

The only really new thing that Bush mentions is the idea of compensating the refugees that were dispersed upon the creation of Israel in 1948. This is probably the only way to resolve the issue now, without going from a two-state solution to a one-state solution. This should be the main point of compromise: the Palestinians have to accept that the refugees aren't going to be able to return, and the Israelis for their part accept that settlements in the West Bank and the security barrier have to go. East Jerusalem would then be the only major sticking point.

One last thing:

Security is fundamental. No agreement and no Palestinian state will be born of terror. I reaffirm America's steadfast commitment to Israel's security.

For those who argue that Israel itself was born of terror, the irony will long continue to be bitter.

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Friday, September 07, 2007 

Compare and contrast.

Sometimes, all you have to do is contrast two articles:

SYDNEY, Australia -- President Bush had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day at the Sydney Opera House.

He'd only reached the third sentence of Friday's speech to business leaders, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, when he committed his first gaffe.

"Thank you for being such a fine host for the OPEC summit," Bush said to Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

Oops. That would be APEC, the annual meeting of leaders from 21 Pacific Rim nations, not OPEC, the cartel of 12 major oil producers.

Bush quickly corrected himself. "APEC summit," he said forcefully, joking that Howard had invited him to the OPEC summit next year (for the record, an impossibility, since neither Australia nor the U.S. are OPEC members).

The president's next goof went uncorrected - by him anyway. Talking about Howard's visit to Iraq last year to thank his country's soldiers serving there, Bush called them "Austrian troops."

That one was fixed for him. Though tapes of the speech clearly show Bush saying "Austrian," the official text released by the White House switched it to "Australian."

Then, speech done, Bush confidently headed out - the wrong way.

He strode away from the lectern on a path that would have sent him over a steep drop. Howard and others redirected the president to center stage, where there were steps leading down to the floor of the theater.

The medics had 20 minutes’ warning. A soldier badly wounded by a roadside bomb was coming in. It was only after the helicopter landed at the 28th Combat Support Hospital inside Baghdad’s green zone that they realised quite how badly.

As they cut away his blood-sodden bandages in the trauma ward they found that all four limbs had either been severed or were attached by little more than skin. He had 70 per cent burns to what was left of his body.

They worked frantically to keep him alive. All his remaining limbs were amputated except for the top of one arm. Within hours he was air-borne again – this time bound for Germany and an onward flight to the Brooke Army Medical Centre in Texas.

There, some time soon, he will wake to realise that life as he knew it is over.

While President Bush will still have a lifetime of gaffes to make.

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