BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Spanish Portuguese Caribbean

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Americas  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Friday, 14 June, 2002, 00:20 GMT 01:20 UK
Analysis: Bush camp's Mid-East split
US Secretary of State Colin Powell
Mr Powell was again left out to dry

It has been a muddle for months, but this week the divisions over the United States' Middle East policy became painfully clear.

It was comments by the Secretary of State Colin Powell that started it off.

In an interview with the Arabic newspaper, al- Hayat, he spoke of the possibility of setting up a provisional Palestinian state.

Mr Powell referred to the Palestinian Authority as a "government". And he said, quite categorically, that the United States would continue to work with Yasser Arafat.

It fell to the White House spokesman, Ari Fleischer, to deliver a very public humiliation.

Asked whether President George W Bush endorsed Mr Powell's remarks, Mr Fleischer said only that "the president has been receiving advice from any number of people, and many of these people give him multiple pieces of advice about the Middle East".

It was hardly a ringing vote of support.

Damage control

As Mr Powell travelled to a meeting of foreign ministers in Whistler, Canada, he began the damage limitation.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat
President Bush almost daily expresses his frustration with Yasser Arafat

"I think I've talked about this a number of times before and the ideas that are out there with respect to how you move forward," he told reporters on his plane.

The trouble is that the idea of a provisional Palestinian state has not been aired by him publicly.

And his open support for continuing to talk with Yasser Arafat set a very different tone to the president's almost daily expressions of frustration with the Palestinian leader.

It's all very reminiscent of Mr Powell's early baptism of fire as secretary of state, when he spoke about negotiations with North Korea - only to have the rug pulled very swiftly under him by the White House.

Now it appears that President Bush has softened the humiliation a little bit, talking of "the evolution of a Palestinian state".

Pulled two ways

All this comes as the United States policy towards the Middle East undergoes yet another review.

It has just been discussed by the G8 foreign ministers' meeting.
George W Bush
President Bush will soon announce a new US policy in the Middle East

More of the key players will be in Washington for meetings on Friday. Then some time next week, President Bush is expected to pronounce.

As so often, Mr Bush is being torn in two precisely opposite directions.

Moderate Arab nations, and most of the United States' allies in Europe and around the world want a greater involvement in peace making, an early peace conference, and a timetable leading to the creation of a Palestinian state.

But domestic opinion in the United States supports the scepticism being poured on all those ideas by the Israeli government.

So once again, Mr Bush and his advisers are working overtime carefully to craft a compromise that he will unveil to the world.

Poll watchers

And once again the lesson is the same.

This is an administration that pays an extraordinary degree of attention to domestic opinion when it formulates foreign policy.

Hence any ideas emerging from the State Department are examined line by line in the White House for their popularity at home.

That is already painfully clear from President Bush's policies on global warming, steel tariffs, and host of other issues.

For the reason, you need to look no further than the tiny margin of victory in the 2000 presidential election.

Mr Bush knows that if he is to be re-elected, he cannot afford to waste a single vote on being nice to foreigners - however much that leaves his secretary of state hanging out to dry.

Key stories




See also:

13 Jun 02 | Middle East
13 Jun 02 | Middle East
13 Jun 02 | Middle East
10 Jun 02 | Middle East
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Americas stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |