WASHINGTON – The White House plans to stay the course President Bush has charted as his Middle East policy and is discouraging attempts by lawmakers to step into the conflict with legislation.
Peace in the Middle East requires "hard choices and real leadership" by Israelis, Palestinians and their Arab neighbors, Bush said Saturday. The administration was cool to former President Clinton's offer to play a role in the peacemaking effort.
"The president has outlined a clear blueprint for the pathway to peace in the Middle East," and the administration has made progress, White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said. "We and the international community are focused on bringing the parties together."
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., urged Bush to take up Clinton's overture. "I think his advice would be invaluable," said Specter, who met with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat three weeks ago.
Lawmakers have offered a wide range of suggestions to end the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate, including a bill by Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to impose sanctions on Arafat. Reps. Lois Capps, D-Calif., and Jim Leach, R-Iowa, circulated a letter asking Bush to consider sending former Presidents Bush, Carter and Clinton to the region to continue peace efforts.
But, said Buchan, the Bush administration does not believe that legislation targeting the Middle East will help.
After defending Israel last week, and later expressing sympathy for the plight of Palestinians, Bush used his weekly radio address to make demands on all players in the Mideast.
"The time is now for all of us to make the choice for peace," he said.
Clinton, in an interview Thursday with The Associated Press, said he would like to be involved in the Middle East peace process.