Experts Expect Middle East Crisis Likely to Consume Bush’s Presidency very Quickly

Published December 16th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

By Munir K. Nasser 

Chief Correspondent, Washington, DC 


As a new Bush administration begins to take shape, some observers in Washington believe the Middle East crisis is likely to consume his presidency very quickly.  

Although Bush is widely expected to delegate diplomacy to the State Department and his secretary of state, he is likely to focus his efforts on repairing US ties with Arab allies in the aftermath of recent violence in the West Bank and Gaza. 

Washington informed sources close to the Bush's team expect that the position of Middle East coordinator assumed by Dennis Ross is most likely to be filled by former US ambassador to Israel and Syria Edward Djerejian, now the director of the James Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. Djerejian also served as Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs.  

Bush, according to analysts, is not particularly susceptible to the influence of the Jewish lobby as most of the Jewish vote went to Gore-Lieberman. This would make it much harder for an Israeli prime minister to exercise pressure on Bush through the Jewish lobby.  

Although there was a sigh of relief in much of the Arab world over the Bush victory because of a perceived pro-Israeli bias of a Gore-Lieberman administration, many observers express concern about Bush’s lack of foreign policy experience. But former President Bush is remembered in the Arab world as being tougher on the Israelis, and the assumption is that his son will be the same. Bush is also expected to focus more energy on the Arab states of the Gulf because of the Bush family oil interests and is expected to lean on Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians.  

To reassure the world, Bush is expected soon to appoint familiar faces from his father’s administration who are known quantities around the globe. This will include figures such as retired General Colin Powell, who is expected to become secretary of state, and Condoleezza Rice, the expected national security adviser.  

Washington analysts predict there will be no major shifts in US foreign policy under the new administration. They argue that Bush’s lack of experience in foreign policy is not a serious handicap because former presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were not experienced when they assumed the presidency. They depended on their instincts and good choice of advisers  

According to George Stephanopoulos, Clinton’s former communications director, Clinton seeked advice early in his administration from former President Richard Nixon. He said after becoming involved in Middle East peace negotiations, he “inspired confidence by convincing all sides that he takes them seriously.” He added that “participants report amazement at Clinton’s ability to draw a map of Jerusalem from the Israeli perspective, then turn the paper over and draw it again as the Palestinians see it.”  

Stephanopoulos said Al Gore in Congress Gore was expert on arms control and global warming. In the White House, he was in the room for every major military and diplomatic decision” taken by the Clinton administration. “But for all his smarts and experience, he doesn’t have personal chemistry, or the intellectual imagination, to see how life looks through the eyes of his adversaries,” like Clinton did, he said.  

Stephanopoulos believes Bush has the opposite challenge: “he makes connections with everyone he meets, but has not yet shown the capacity to soak up specifics. True, he’s a quick study and he’s stocked his team with trusted old hands from his father’s days, but in the end he’s the one in the room. Bush must demonstrate that he understands the issues.”  






© 2000 Al Bawaba (

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