President Bush's decision to go to Israel this week as part of the celebration of the Jewish state's 60th birthday is an altogether appropriate gesture. Israel remains the only democracy in the Middle East, and as such, is America's only genuine ally in a region ruled by Arab and Islamic authoritarians.
The diplomatic focus of Bush's mission remains the attempt to push for a framework peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. While the goal of peace is laudable and necessary, the initiative — with goal being to see a deal signed before the president leaves office at the end of the year — seems destined to fail.
The precarious nature of Israel's government right now because of the ongoing criminal investigations of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is one problem. But the prime obstacle remains unchanged: a Palestinian peace partner — the P.A.'s Mahmoud Abbas — that has demonstrated that he hasn't the ability or the will to stop anti-Israeli terror. Yet Bush and his advisers seem to retain a laser-like focus on pushing Olmert and Abbas to sign something that can be construed as a triumph for an administration desperate for a win.
To that end, Bush is trying to bolster both Olmert and Abbas. They can both use the help, but at this moment, the president needs to think about other pressing problems.
In the past week, Hezbollah terrorists have asserted their control over parts of Lebanon's capital city of Beirut. In 2005, Washington's support for democracy in Lebanon aided a "Cedar Revolution" that pushed out the country's Syrian occupiers. Three years later, with the help of their Syrian and Iranian sponsors, the Islamists are on their way into turning Lebanon into Hezbollistan.
Combined with the conversion of Gaza into Hamasistan (from which Palestinian missile and mortar fire into southern Israel resulted in two more Israeli deaths this past week), the American notion that the region could be transformed into a bastion of Arab moderation and democracy is in ruins. The administration hopes that an Israeli-P.A. peace agreement of any kind will undermine Hamas and other radicals. But even if such a deal was signed, Hamas' current power renders it a meaningless exercise.
What the president must do is worry less about diplomatic coups, and more about how to help Israel and genuine Arab moderates fight the radicals.