American President George Bush did not help the cause of Middle East peace when he backed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s unilateral initiative for ‘disengagement’ from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank. Bush seems to have had no idea how his endorsement of the scheme would reverberate across the Arab world.
It has compounded the disarray amongst Arab leaders, whose intended March summit of the Arab League in Tunis was suddenly cancelled by the Tunisian president. Bickering between Arab leaders threatened to undermine proceedings and, in the wake of Israel’s assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the Arab heads of state could not have relaunched their peace initiative without accusations of appeasement. They were also unable to agree on joint proposals for political and economic reform. So they could neither present a united front nor give Washington what it was seeking.