Is this a trend? It feels a little like deja-vu to see Bush, in the last year or so of his presidency, groping for a deal between the Israelis and Palestinians. Bill Clinton tried to used the last year or so of his presidency to get a deal – and I suspect that Bush, like Clinton, will fail at this.
It’s odd to look at these very different presidents attempting to achieve similar ends in the last months of their respective reigns. Clinton was never as unpopular as Bush is now – but he did seem to be aware that his legacy would be his impeachment. What he had accomplished in Kosovo or in Bosnia was probably not enough to cleanse the public memory of his various indiscretions. If Clinton were able to get the Israelis and the Palestinians to get some kind of deal on a “final status” for the occupied territories he could cast himself as a sort of flawed-hero statesman. Instead he was staring at legacy of being little more than a philanderer.
Bush is in worse shape. His legacy is one of squandering global sympathy after 9/11 for the pursuit of an invasion that was ill-considered at best and criminal at worst. Clinton was respected in many places outside of the US where it was not apparent why the public should become embroiled in a scandal over sexual favours. Bush is widely disliked though – some of his cabinet minister may very well one day be in the position that Henry Kissinger is in today where they cannot travel safely for fear of war crimes indictments in old Europe. What Bush is hoping for I suspect is a deal. This way he can attempt to cast his other Middle Eastern mis-adventures in the light of an honest (if horrendously executed) concern for democracy.
What might be nice is if presidents did not wait till they were in search of a legacy to do something about the festering problem of Israel and the Palestinians.