I initially skimmed the column Saturday and almost decided not to post anything about it because the anti-Bush stuff from Strobel and Allam has become so routine that it is boring. But I changed my mind and did some research. And I found information that leads me to believe Strobel and Allam, if not outright lied, at the very least mislead their readers.
The point of this particular article is that Bush has become so "toxic" to middle eastern leaders that they are bypassing Washington. One example given by Strobel and Allam:
Israel ignored U.S. objections and entered indirect peace talks with Syria through Turkey, another longtime U.S. ally.The article doesn't identify a source for the reference to "US objections." No official was quoted. Now, given Bush's stance against holding talks with terrorist states, I assume Bush would be against Israel holding talks with Syria. But Strobel and Allam state there were "US objections." What is their source for this claim?
Doing some research, I found Bush has addressed the issue in public forums, and Bush's actual statements contradict the claim of Strobel and Allam.
Let's take a look at the public record. Bush met with Olmert at the White House during November, 2006. In the Oval Office reporters asked them about Israel holding talks with Syria. Here is what Bush actually said about Israel negotiating with Syria:
Q Mr. President, do you see any change in the administration's position regarding Syria? Do you support the resumption of Israeli-Syrian negotiations? And the same question to the Prime Minister, if I may. In the past, you rejected the resumption of the Syrian and Israeli negotiations under -- one of the reasons was the rejection of the American administration regarding the policies of Syria. Do you see now, after you discuss this matter with the President, any change in your position regarding Syria?
PRESIDENT BUSH: My answer to your question is, Prime Minister Olmert knows how to run his own foreign policy. And he can figure out his -- he can figure out his policy towards them. My policy towards Syria is this: that we expect the Syrians to be, one, out of Lebanon so that the Lebanese democracy can exist; two, not harboring extremists that create -- that empower these radicals to stop the advance of democracies; three, to help this young democracy in Iraq succeed. And the Syrian President knows my position. We have told that to him through my administration. We do have an embassy there in Syria. But our position is very clear, and we would like to see some progress toward peace from the Syrians.
PRIME MINISTER OLMERT: I share the same opinion with President Bush. We are not against negotiations with Syria. We would love to be able to have negotiations with Syria, but that must be based on a certain reasonable, responsible policy, which is not preformed by Syria for the time being. Everything that they are doing is to the other direction -- in Lebanon, in Iraq, and the sponsorship of Hamas and Khalid Mashal as the main perpetrators of terror against the state of Israel. With some changes in the Russian -- I'm sorry, in the Syrian attitude on these major issues, I hope that one day the conditions for contacts between them and us will be created. But to be honest, I don't think at the present time they manifest any such attitude. And that makes it impossible.
In this forum, Bush voiced no objection, saying Olmert can figure out his approach with Syria. (Bush also said - which was news to me - that his administration has communicated with Syria through the American embassy.) Olmert said he shares the same opinion as Bush, and he said he is not opposed to negotiations with Syria under the proper conditions.
In Jerusalem, it was reported that Bush did not oppose Israel talking to Syria. From the Jerusalem Post:
For his part, Bush said that Israel could decide for itself whether it wants to negotiate with Syria, that all options are still on the table regarding Iran, and that despite setbacks in Gaza, his vision of a two-state solution is still viable and should be pushed forward.There you have it. Far from objecting to Israel holding talks with Syria, as McClatchy claims, Bush's actual public statements have not objected to Olmert's position in favor of talking with Syria.
At a brief press conference in the White House's Oval Office before meeting with Olmert, Bush said the US had no intention of interceding between Syria and Israel.
"If the prime minister wants to negotiate with Syria, he doesn't need me to mediate," Bush said. "It's up to the prime minister. This man is plenty capable of having negotiations without me mediating."
Syria has let it be known in recent days that it would be interested in negotiations with Israel under a Quartet or US umbrella, something that Olmert said Tuesday was unacceptable. Syria's request for such a framework has been interpreted in Jerusalem as an effort to escape international isolation.
"The Syrian leader said that he is against preconditions from the Israeli side, but he is certainly for preconditions from the Syrian side. One of the preconditions is that he wants President Bush to get more involved then he already is in regional issues," the prime minister said.
Olmert said that anyone who wanted to speak directly with Israel did not need US involvement.
So where are the US objections claimed by McClatchy? Are they real, or made up by 2 anti-Bush reporters writing another anti-Bush article?
It is possible that Strobel and Allam have a solid source not named in their article. If so, they should publish it. But given the public statements by Bush and Olmert, it looks to me like Strobel and Allam misrepresented the truth.
The lies and distortions of McClatchy are starting to pile up.
Previous McClatchy distortions:
The dishonesty of McClatchy's Hannah Allam
McClatchy's Warren Strobel misleads readers
McClatchy reporters accused of distorting quotes and publishing unattributed gossip
McClatchy reporters accused of distortion