Bush in Israel; Rats on the run...

Behind The News
January 10, 2008 2:04:36 PM PST
Nobody asked me, but if they had, if the White House had asked me back in 2001 what President George W. Bush should do about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, I would have recommended that he do back then what he's doing right now. Go to Israel -- in your first year in office, not at the end of your seventh.

The timing of the President's trip is curious. What were they thinking, going during the New Hampshire primary? Were they trying to lower expectations before he got there? Hard to come up with any other scenario.

In any event, Mr. Bush is coming away from Israel with no major progress in the decades old conflict between Jews and Palestinians. But he did offer some interesting insight -- and it's fair to ask the question: what took him so long?

He said, rather forcefully, that he wanted to see a peace treaty by the time he leaves office -- a rather ambitious timetable, given that he hadn't paid much attention to the region since his first election in 2000.

Mr. Bush also said it was time for both sides to accept "painful political concessions," a situation that both sides have avoided because that would involve making concessions that are painful.

He talked about the two major roadblocks to peace: resolving the status of Jerusalem (a split city is probably the only workable solution, but Israel refuses to budge on that), and the end of the occupation of Arab land by the Israeli military.

That loud thud was the sound of arch conservatives fainting. That a Republican President would advise Israel to get out of the West Bank and help create a free Palestinian state appears a bit shocking. But remember it was the most anti-Communist anti-Communist -- Pres. Nixon -- who first opened relations with what was then known as Communist China. (Just "China" is what we call it nowadays.).

As I say, nobody asked me, but you have to wonder why Pres. Bush waited so long to go there and say these things.

But, lest I be accused of being negative, I say, okay now, let's move forward. The world waits for peace in Israel.

Our Diana Williams is in Israel for the President's visit. She'll have the latest, tonight at 11.

Also at 11, we'll have the latest on the political races for President. Barack Obama got an endorsement today from John Kerry, the Senator from Massachusetts and the Democratic Party's last standard bearer. Experts say the endorsement gives Obama the stamp of approval from an established politician, but the people who supported Kerry are pretty much the same people who are the benchmark of Obama's campaign -- well educated and well off.

The backstory about Kerry's endorsement is fascinating. Kerry's running mate in 2004, John Edwards, found out about the Obama endorsement from reporters. Call me old fashioned, but why didn't Mr. Kerry call Mr. Edwards and tell him what he was about to do, just out of common courtesy? There is, we know, no love lost between the one-time running mates - their campaign was a casebook study of conflicting strategies, large egos, miscommunications and lack of communication.

Not informing your former running mate that you aren't endorsing him has some precedent. In 2004, Al Gore endorsed Howard Dean (and look what that got him), and Gore's running mate in 2000, Joe Lieberman, found out about it from the news media.

Charming.

Also at 11, we're in the Bronx where Health Dept. officials are launching their latest assault on rats. This time they're using handheld computers to catalog rodent "hot spots." When they find them, they'll exterminate in that area, and demand that property owners clean up their so-called rodent-friendly environments.

They say that there's one rat for every New Yorker - or about 8 million of the varmints in the City.

Whatever it takes to get rid of them, I say go for it.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports.

I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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