How will Bush handle Mideast

The change of presidents in America is an uncertain time. No one knows for sure how the new president will handle domestic affairs, international affairs, the economy or the myriad details that make their way into the Oval Office.

This year the change has been made far more difficult. President-elect Bush enters the office having not only lost the popular vote but having squeaked by in a very contentious electoral vote.

He has his own agenda, including lowering taxes, safeguarding Social Security and enhancing medical coverage for seniors.

While Jews, like most Americans, are interested in those issues, the violence in the Middle East is taking center stage in many of our lives.

We can only hope that Bush agrees to focus on the Mideast, too. Chances are he won't have any choice. The United Nations and various world powers are heavily involved. The Mideast unrest makes it a high priority in international affairs.

Nevertheless, it's understandable if Bush is reluctant to get involved immediately. It's a no-win situation for him, and something he doesn't need at the beginning of his presidency.

Bush must be wondering what he can do that President Clinton hasn't tried. Clinton has spent months babysitting the Israelis and Palestinians only to have the situation remain at square one because Yasser Arafat refuses to take the plunge.

The situation can only worsen for the new president. A couple of weeks after Bush takes office, Israelis go to the polls to elect a new prime minister. Polls indicate that Likud Party leader Ariel Sharon will trounce incumbent Edud Barak.

If that happens, Bush will be dealing with a prime minister who is not as willing as Barak to make concessions. Worse yet, Sharon has already been quoted as saying that as far as he is concerned, the Oslo accords are dead. If he's elected, the Palestinians response can almost be predicted.

We can only hope Bush has some ideas that have not been tried, some ideas that can lead to a lasting peace. Otherwise, the new president will begin office mired in the Mideast imbroglio that could end up haunting him for the next four years.