Writing in Newsweek, Gregory Levey argues that President Obama should tap President George W. Bush to be his Middle East envoy:
Indulge me for a moment. Obama has ruffled feathers in Israel by calling for a halt to settlement growth and talking openly about an equitable fate for East Jerusalem, which both Israelis and Palestinians claim as their capital. He has elicited deeply felt unease about how much the American president can be trusted to safeguard Israel’s basic security.
Obama claims that the peace process is an essential plank of his program for the region, but it will be impossible to make progress if he can’t convince Israel to defer to American leadership. In the history of U.S.-Israel relations, probably no president has earned adoration and unequivocal trust from Israel like Bush. (An Israeli diplomat once told me that the former president gave a speech at the U.N. during his second term that attracted so many adoring Israeli diplomats that even the deputy U.N. ambassador couldn’t score a seat.)
During the Bush years, Israelis were consistently among the few foreign populations that gave the American president high approval marks — often in far greater proportion than Americans themselves. Senior officials in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, where I worked, spoke on their cell phones daily with their White House counterparts — circumventing the State Department and the Israeli Foreign Ministry entirely.
That closeness paid off. It’s no coincidence that, during the Bush years, Ariel Sharon had political cover to suggest "painful concessions" for peace — a euphemism for withdrawal from territory. The unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip — followed by preparations to withdraw from large parts of the West Bank that were interrupted only by the Hizbullah war of 2006 — almost certainly would not have happened with anyone else in the White House less trusted to ensure Israel’s safety.
Neither Obama nor his proxies enjoy anywhere near the same level of faith. …
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