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Will Bush ask for Obama's help?

The (link has expired) Jewish Week just posted an op-ed by Debra DeLee suggesting that President Bush reach out to President-elect Obama in order to formulate a strategy to deliver on a lasting ceasefire.

Any chance that Bush would be willing to take such a step?

Gaza: Time for US Diplomacy
by Debra DeLee
Special to the Jewish Week

In Israel, more and more civilians seek shelter from rockets fired from Gaza, while the Israeli military continues its offensive and strategists contemplate exit strategies.

In Gaza, civilians' suffering deepens, while Hamas continues to fire rockets deeper and deeper into Israel and Hamas officials plot to continue attacks in search of their version of "victory".

In Egypt, Turkey and France, leaders struggle to craft a new ceasefire agreement that both Israel and Hamas might accept, and one with a few more teeth than the last one.

But here in Washington, the Bush Administration - which for the past year labored to make the Annapolis peace talks a centerpiece of its legacy - appears paralyzed. "We're out of here in just a couple of weeks," his foreign policy team must say to rationalize their inaction. "What could we do?" Indeed, any Bush efforts would likely be ineffective, since all sides know that this Administration is on its final legs.

And the Obama team - in which the whole world has invested its hopes for a more promising foreign policy - has no mandate to conduct affairs of state until January 20.

So what can be done?

The crisis in Gaza and southern Israel can't wait for a change of leadership in Washington.  It has profound implications for America's national security. Each passing day deals another blow to the hopes of achieving progress toward Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab peace.  The images of the violence being televised worldwide bode well for Al Qaeda's recruitment drives. America's best allies in the Muslim world are facing hostile demonstrations.  Witness Hizbollah's Hassan Nasrallah - one of the most popular leaders in the Arab world - inciting Egyptians to topple their government.

President Bush needs to show leadership.  Now is the time for President Bush to transcend partisan and personal politics for the good of his country and reach out to President-elect Obama.  He did that to address the financial crisis. He can do it to address this one as well.

Cooperation between the incoming and outgoing administrations will send a clear message that America won't hesitate to act -- even in times of transition -- when its global interests are at stake. It will also serve as a strong testament of America's commitment to Arab-Israeli peacemaking.

What could this look like?  How about President Bush inviting President-elect Obama to join him in dispatching a high-level delegation - headed, perhaps, by outgoing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her appointed successor, Hillary Clinton - vested with the authority of both Bush and Obama to work for a constructive end to this crisis.

Such a team would demand the respect and wield the clout necessary to get results.

America's national security interests, and Israel's best interests, demand a new ceasefire, one that is more than simply a stop-gap measure to end the violence in the immediate term. A new arrangement, stabilizing the relationship between Israel and the Gaza Strip, must be a part of a broader strategy that provides for improvement in the humanitarian situation and creates the environment necessary for a successful political process.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is, at its heart, a political conflict. No ceasefire will be lasting without a new political path that gives all the stakeholders a seat at the table. Sure, this is not an easy path. It is complicated, among other things, by Hamas' track record of broken promises to its Palestinian brethren, to Egypt, and to Israel.

But the complexity of the situation is no excuse for inaction. Every hour of violence means more dead and wounded, less sympathy for Israel's position, less support for pro-peace policies among Israelis and Palestinians, and the further erosion of America's global standing.

This is still President George W. Bush's watch. It's time for him to act. 

Debra DeLee is the President and CEO of Americans for Peace Now, a Jewish organization that advocates security for Israel through peace and supports Israel's Peace Now movement.