Middle Eastern Lessons From the Past

Let's play connect the dots on Saudi Arabia ...

We have Secretary of State Colin Powell telling Tony Snow that visa applications from Saudis and others will now get a mandatory 20-day wait so our folks can check out the applicants. This is presumably so we do not have another 15 Saudis entering the country on legal visas who aspire to hijack airliners and drive them into tall buildings. In other words, a good move.

Now, onto another dot. The Saudi ambassador to the U.S. is, in his own words, frustrated. It's enough to drive a sane man mad that President Bush won't meet with PLO chairman Yasser Arafat.

The Saudis are trying to keep their own restive citizens calm by appearing to do something about the so-called Palestinian question. Consequently they are desperate for Bush to meet with Arafat, to show that the U.S. is engaged in a Middle East solution that would help both the Palestinians and the Israelis.

As many of you know, I am not a close confident and political advisor of president George W. Bush, but I think you can figure this one out from far, far away. So Mr. Saudi Ambassador, here's the deal: Bush has learned a lot from Clinton. He learned not to get impeached, and not to try to broker a solution for the Palestinians until they are ready to have one.

Clinton tried to jam one down their throat, and he got — to use a Yiddish phrase — bupkus. Bush ain't dumb enough to repeat that mistake. He's going to wait until Arafat and the PLO are desperate for a solution.

Until then — to use a Texas phrase — nada, zip, fughedabouit. Why? Clinton stuck his neck out, got the PLO more than the Israelis ever offered and got Barak fired. Still, Arafat said no, preferring war to the best deal ever. So if I'm George W. Bush, I'm not in such a hurry to get involved.

For one thing, Bush doesn't want anybody mucking up his anti terror war. He doesn't want the PLO saying we'll take this deal but only if you back off the Taliban or Usama bin Laden.

Bush's message to Saudi Arabia, the PLO or any other Arab state is clear: When the U.S. gets involved in a peace process, you better be ready to say the magic words … We take the deal. Until you're ready to say that, don't call us. We're busy.

That's My Word.

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