The big test

Palestinian PM-designate Abu Mazin appears to have succeeded in facing down Arafat over his choice of Cabinet. It still has to be approved by the Palestinian Parliament. Once that happens, Bush is committed to publishing his ‘roadmap’ for peace, which Sharon has already effectively dismissed, proposing a wide range of amendments.

This is the big test for Bush’s Middle East policy. If he pushes ahead and demands that Sharon accept the roadmap without significant change, begins dismantling settlements and so on, there is a fair chance that the resulting shift in public sentiment throughout the Arab world will lead to a successful outcome in Iraq. If not, the hostility to the US that is already evident in Iraq will only intensify – there are a number of possible ways the situation could develop from there, none of them appealing.

But as I argued at the time, if Bush was planning to do something serious about the Israel-Palestine problem, it would have been far more sensible to do it first, then deal with Saddam.