TRANSFORMING THE MIDDLE EAST….Only Nixon can go to China, and maybe only Bush can forge peace in the Middle East. His success in Iraq and his demonstrated friendship with Israel is apparently keeping the Israeli lobby quiet even though they don’t like the Bush “roadmap” much:

The pro-Israel lobby finds itself hanging back these days, reluctant to confront Israel’s benefactor as he emerges victorious from the war in Iraq.

“There’s very little desire to take him on right now, at the period of his greatest strength,” said Marshall Breger, a professor at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law who was President Reagan’s liaison with the American Jewish community. “The organized community just doesn’t want to go at him head on.”

After all, President Bush has delivered Israel from its greatest military threat. His administration has proposed a massive new financial aid package and committed itself to doing even more in the years ahead to make Israel’s tough neighborhood a little safer.

It’s a cliche to say that postwar Iraq is more important than the war itself, but recent developments show how true this really is, especially in the first few months after the war. Right now, President Bush is in the strongest position he will ever be in, and if he’s really serious about remaking the Middle East he’s going to need to take some chances and show that unswerving resolve he’s so famous for among his fans.

Bush’s friendship toward Israel is unquestioned, so right now he can afford to show some goodwill toward the Palestinians to gain their trust. He’s just finished conquering Iraq, so if there’s ever a time that he can convince Syria that it’s in their best interest to give up their dreams of pan-Arab nationalism, this is it. Our military bases in Saudi Arabia are being removed, so he can now afford to increase pressure on the House of Saud to rein in their religious fundamentalists.

Momentum and optimism being the fragile things that they are, my guess is that he’s got no more than a few months to use this newfound clout before it starts to evaporate. By the end of the year we should know for certain whether he was really serious about transforming the Middle East.

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