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Global: George W. Bush as Middle East Envoy?

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, North America, Oceania, Australia, Israel, Syria, U.S.A., Governance, Humor, International Relations, War & Conflict

An opinion piece [1] written for Newsweek suggesting George W. Bush make an excellent complement to U.S. President Obama as Middle East envoy has made waves in the blogosphere. The article, penned by Gregory Levey [2], the author of a book called Shut Up I'm Talking: And Other Diplomacy Lessons I Learned in the Israeli Government–A Memoir [3] and former speechwriter for the Israeli government, advocates for Bush and Obama to play “good cop, bad cop” with Israel, whilst ignoring the need for diplomacy with the rest of the Middle East.

Syrian blogger Anas Qtiesh criticizes [4] Levey's proposal, focusing on Levey's statements that Israel should be the top priority of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East:

So Mr. Levey suggests that the U.S. needs to acquire Israeli trust in order to stop the illegal settlements, illegal Judaization of Jerusalem, and to have Israeli permission to have talks with Iran. The absurdity of his suggestion is only matched by a fact he mentions to justify his outrageous suggestion: “In the history of U.S.-Israel relations, probably no president has earned adoration and unequivocal trust from Israel like Bush.”

Australian blogger and journalist Antony Loewenstein also wonders why the Arabs aren't considered in Levey's piece, remarking [5]:

A former worker in the Israeli Prime Minister’s office, Gregory Levey, suggests that the Obama administration appoint George W. Bush as his Middle East envoy to pressure and cajole Israel.

Clearly Levey has never spoken to any Arabs in the Middle East; Bush isn’t the most liked individual.

Blogger Max Strasser of Next Year In, a blog which focuses on the Middle East, is more amused [6] by the implication that Israelis love George W. Bush, despite his low approval ratings elsewhere:

Oy.  That’s just a little embarrassing for the Israelis.  Bush ended his term as one of the least popular presidents [7] in American history.  He is despised around the world.  And still Israelis love him?  That makes Israel sound like some sort of “rogue” state.  I hope that it doesn’t bespeak anything too significant about the direction of Israeli politics.

Pseudonymous blogger Doctor Biobrain, whose location is as mysterious as his pseudonym, questions [8] why U.S. support for Israel must always go unquestioned:

Would someone care to explain to me why we need to make Israel happy? I don't even buy into the idea that having them in the middle-east is some great strategic advantage for us, and think it's the exact opposite. Israel is one of the biggest problems we have in the middle-east. That's not to say I don't support their existence or anything, merely that I fail to understand their strategic importance to us or why we need to keep appeasing them. As with our embargo of Cuba, I believe our support of Israel is more about domestic politics than foreign policy and anyone who suggests otherwise is selling something.

But if their existence is somehow important to us, you'd think their existence would be even more important to themselves. And if our support of them makes their existence possible, then you'd think they'd owe it to us to keep us happy, not vice versa. And if our support isn't necessary for their existence and they're doing us a favor by accepting our support, then perhaps we should stop supporting them. That seems fairly obvious to me.

Though it was nearly impossible to find a blogger writing in support of Levey's piece, Jason Zengerle, blogging for The New Republic, sees it as a metaphor of sorts, but criticizes [9] Bush nonetheless, stating:

I guess it's to encourage Obama to be more Bush-like in his dealings with Israel. One Bush-like gesture, according to Levey, would be for Obama “to speak directly to Israelis, the way Bush did often.” But did Bush speak directly to Israelis that often? He didn't visit Israel as president until January 2008, some seven years after he entered the White House. And he made only one more trip there, in May of last year, to speak to the Knesset (and take some thinly veiled swipes at Obama). Obama, of course, has been president for six months now. I'm with Levey (and pretty much everyone else it seems) in thinking Obama should speak directly to Israelis. But I don't think he'll necessarily be following Bush's example if and when he does.

There were also a plethora of blog posts which took a more humorous tone. While David Pleasant blogged [10]

Good Lord. Gregory Levey, in a Newsweek article, is proposing that President Obama make George W. Bush his special envoy to the Middle East. Um, the only place I propose the federal government send Mr. Bush to is the SuperMax Prison in Florence, CO.

…While Matthew Saroff of 40 Years in the Desert snarks [11]

In related news, he suggested that Hannibal Lecter as chairman of the special White House committee on nutrition, Mary “Typhoid Mary” Mallon as head of food safety at the FCC, Timothy Leary as Drug Czar, and South Carolina Governor Rick “Hiking the Appalachian Trail” Sanford as head of the special working committee for ethics in government.

…and Oliver Willis (U.S.) jokes [12]:

In related news, Godzilla has been appointed to the task force to rebuild Tokyo.