The administration’s latest peace proposal for the Middle East can be charitably described as a cynical joke. For one thing, it demands that the Palestinians democratically elect new leaders “untainted by terror.” I agree that the Palestinians desperately need new leadership, leadership that renounces meaningless violence and provides a vision for the future that involves living productively alongside the Israelis and building a modern nation that can participate effectively in the regional and global economy. But if there were Palestinian elections tomorrow, that’s not the sort of leadership that would be elected. I doubt whether there’d even be any such candidates on the ballot. The parties in the election would be the Palestinian Authority (which would of course run Arafat again), Hamas (Islamist candidate), Islamic Jihad (Islamist candidate), and the PFLP (old school leftist candidate). Can we realistically expect the winner of such an election to promote the kind of agenda that Ariel Sharon and the Bush administration demand?

Furthermore, the proposal does nothing to address the concerns that have derailed the peace negotiations that failed during the Clinton administration. Leaving issues like right of return, Jerusalem, and the actual borders of the proposed Palestinian state for later isn’t going to work. Those are the issues on the table, if it were not for them, chances are we wouldn’t have had the current intifada at all.

Finally, the Bush proposal demands nothing from the Israelis. I won’t argue with anyone who says that the current Palestinian leadership is worse than worthless, but it’s not like Israel has leadership that any Palestinian could negotiate with in good faith, either. Ariel Sharon engineered his election by intentionally provoking Palestinian violence and then riding the mayhem into office, and it’s obvious that he has utter and complete contempt for Palestinians, period. The fact that he demands an utter cessation of violence before peace negotiations begin proves that he has no willingness to negotiate with the Palestinians at all. You don’t sign peace treaties with people you’re already at peace with.

And again, looking at this in business terms, what’s the value proposition for the Palestinians? Find some new leadership that will work with Israel and put an end to terrorism, and you get what? The opportunity to potentially have a provisional state if every Palestinian behaves in a way that’s acceptable to the US and Israel? That looks to me like a scam. I want Palestinian terrorism to stop as much as anybody, and I’d love to see the violence on both sides come to an end, but I also know that we’re not getting any closer with crap like the Bush administration is trotting out.