Friday, July 21, 2006

Israel has its deadline

Just announced by the White House:

President Bush will welcome British Prime Minister Tony Blair to the White House on July 28, 2006. The United States has no closer ally and partner than the United Kingdom, and the President appreciates the Prime Minister's leadership and vision. The two leaders will consult on efforts to secure a lasting peace in the Middle East, consolidate democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan, prevent Iran from obtaining the means to build nuclear weapons, end the genocide in Darfur, and promote free and fair trade.

UPDATE: Given the transparency of the above signal to the Israelis that they have until this day next week to scale things back, Condi's supposed tour of the Middle East earlier next week made little sense. Hence, this completely unsurprising change of plan, via the Wall Street Journal (subs. req'd, brief here):

In a startling twist that shows how tense the atmosphere now is in the Arab world, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will not be traveling next week to any Arab capitals. Instead, she will visit Israel and then loop back to Italy for a meeting with top officials from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and various European countries.

Diplomats say that Egypt was too skittish to host a gathering on the Lebanon conflict in Cairo, fearing it would spark a popular backlash.

Ms. Rice had originally planned to travel first to Cairo and then to visit other Arab capitals after a stopover in Israel. Now it is thought that she will return to the region after a short visit to Malaysia at the end of the week to attend a regional summit. In that return trip, she may stop in key Arab capitals. Israeli officials say that by then, their bombing campaign may have ceased or seriously abated.

UPDATE 25 JULY: In addition to the Bush-Blair formal call for a ceasefire, Bush has invited along some American Idol guests to entertain himself and Blair. And [27 July] it seems that the PR stunt of the Blair visit will be a joint call to Condi Rice to return to the Middle East this weekend to seal a ceasefire.

FINAL UPDATE 18 NOVEMBER: Confirmation that the White House originally thought that the war would be short from this New York Times article --

The Israelis say Washington was disappointed in their performance against Hezbollah. They are right: inside the White House, said one senior official there, who agreed to speak about internal deliberations on condition of anonymity, “Bush and Cheney believed that this would be another Six-Day War, or on the outside, two weeks.”

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