Bush in Arabia

[New York Sun] Editorial - In this visit to the Middle East, Mr. Bush is pressing the freedom agenda in a way no less revolutionary than the visits by Presidents Kennedy and Reagan to Berlin during the last great global struggle, the Cold War. Mr. Bush was asked about the comparison between the fence that Israel has built to protect itself from the terrorists to the wall that the Soviet Union built to keep the people of East Berlin locked behind the Iron Curtain. Mr. Bush rejected the comparison. He had just finished issuing calls for increased freedom in the Arab and Muslim world that were all the more startling because Mr. Bush was making his remarks on unfree soil, or, as Mr. Bush put it in his speech in Abu Dhabi, "on Arab soil." "You cannot build trust when you hold an election where opposition candidates find themselves harassed or in prison," Mr. Bush said, in a comment clearly aimed at Egypt. And, moving on to language that seemed aimed at Saudi Arabia, he said, "You cannot expect people to believe in the promise of a better future when they are jailed for peacefully petitioning their government. And you cannot stand up a modern and confident nation when you do not allow people to voice their legitimate criticisms." We differ with the prescription by Mr. Bush earlier in his Middle East trip that "The point of departure for permanent status negotiations" between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs "should be an end to the occupation that began in 1967." The point of departure should be the Arab acceptance of Israel's right to exist in peace and security and an end to terrorist attacks, including rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel's city of Sderot. It's not constructive to describe the disputed territory as "occupied," any more than it is to describe Iraq or Afghanistan as "occupied." But Mr. Bush has more than earned his standing as a tactician, for on the broad strokes he sketches an inspiring vision, one that, if realized, would result not only in a safer America and Israel, but in a Middle East where liberty, freedom, and democracy, now scarce, are secured.

2008-01-16 01:00:00

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