DEAN AND ISRAEL….As long as I’m kicking Howard Dean, there was one sentence in his speech that just floored me:

While we focused on Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was neglected. The President, despite knowing how critical his personal involvement was, refused to engage for over two full years, squandering the momentum he inherited from the Clinton administration.

Momentum? WTF was Dean smoking when he said that?

Look, I give Clinton credit for doing everything he could to make the 2000 summit work, but he failed. The intifada was in full swing by the time Bush took office and Sharon beat Barak bloody in the Israeli elections just a couple of weeks later. Things spiraled completely out of control in the ensuing months.

Maybe Bush should have engaged earlier, but the only momentum bequeathed to him by Clinton was barreling headlong in the opposite direction of peace. So what was Dean talking about?

UPDATE: OK, I’m maybe half convinced that I overstated things. I well remember the last ditch Taba negotiations right before Clinton left office, but my impression of them was that they were pretty hopeless and Clinton was just keeping them going because ? well, because why not? The horse might learn to sing, after all. However, perhaps there was more progress being made there than I thought.

On the other hand, I think some of the commenters on this thread might be remembering those negotiations a bit too fondly. It’s possible they were going a little better than I recall, but I honestly don’t think there was a whole lot of serious momentum there. What’s more, once Sharon got elected I’m not sure there was an awful lot Bush could do. The whole situation sure seemed pretty hopeless to me at the time.