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Responding to the dramatic escalation of violence in the Middle East, President Bush said that the Palestinians' refusal to "just die already" was "the root cause of the crisis."
Talking to reporters at the White House, Bush said: "See, the Israelis are just retaliating against the Palestinians' continued existence, but it's very inefficient. I mean, the Israelis have killed less than 300 Palestinians in two days of bombing Gaza. All those bombs and missiles cost a lot of money, and it's barely making a dent in the population."
The president added, "It would help the peace process significantly if Palestinians throughout the region were to all quit living, such as by stopping eating and drinking completely. We think the conflict could be ended in mere weeks."
Israeli government spokesmen endorsed the White House's new peace initiative in principle, but questioned whether it was the most effective method.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel was prepared to "provide durable plastic bags to every Palestinian with instructions in Arabic how to seal it tightly over their heads so they would suffocate in mere minutes, rather than the much slower process of starvation."
Barak cautioned that the Israeli government could not pay for such an ambitious program on its own and was preparing to submit an emergency request to the U.S. Congress for more than a billion dollars to fund the plan.
According to White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, Bush was "studying the Israeli proposal seriously."
When asked about the Palestinian reaction, Perino said the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority had responded "enthusiastically" to the idea, and forwarded its own proposal of Palestinians marching "en masse into the Dead Sea to drown immediately."
Perino said, "We are pleased that our friends in the Palestinian Authority are ready to stand with the West and Israel against terrorism and act in the best interests of peace by committing mass suicide, but now is not the time to bog down the process with competing proposals.
"Having millions of decomposing corpses floating in the Dead Sea, while poetic, would require a lengthy environmental review that would mean an unacceptable delay in the plan. The president emphasizes that he is committed to a quick resolution of the conflict, but one that minimizes the costs for all parties involved. President Bush feels starvation is the best solution because it would allow maggots, dogs, vultures and other scavengers of carrion to consume the dead in a timely and thorough manner."
Caught off-guard by the dramatic plan, the U.N. Security Council held an emergency closed-door session and was reportedly close to issuing its own plan that placed a premium on humanitarian concerns by setting up medically supervised euthanasia facilities throughout the Occupied Territories.
When asked about the U.N. proposal, Perino dismissed it out of hand, calling it "typical of bureaucratic dithering that involves anachronistic government interventions, wasteful expenditures and open-ended timetables. Once again, the United Nations shows why it's irrelevant to the peace process."
The reaction to the White House proposal has generally been supportive. Jeffrey Sachs, renowned economist and author of The End of Poverty, called it "an elegant market-based solution that holds great promise." Sachs explained that "it's a needed affirmation of the free market during these troubled times because it requires no government intervention while savings would accrue throughout the process. You save money by cutting off food and water, which also saves transportation costs and fuel costs. Then you outsource the disposal problem to the scavengers."
Sachs added "there might be some outbreaks of late-stage cannibalism, but this would not impede the overall program and in fact would help to contribute to the cleanup. I'm excited about this plan. If successful, we could see it implemented in other regions, such as Africa, to help alleviate poverty."
President-elect Barack Obama had no comment on the Bush peace initiative, but one high-ranking official with the incoming administration, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said, "It appears to a pragmatic plan that brings all stakeholders to the table. This is a model of the type of nonpartisan governance that America, and the world, needs right now. In fact, we think this strategy could bear fruit in other conflict zones such as Pakistan and Afghanistan."
Not wanting to be left out, U.S. allies in the Middle East scrambled to draw up their own plans. A Jordanian spokesman said, "Maybe we can finally do something about all these goddamned Palestinians who've overrun our country," while an aide to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak asked, "Do you think anyone would notice if 10 million poor people suddenly disappeared from Cairo?"
Many Europeans reacted negatively to the White House proposal, however. Typical was the reaction of a German official: "We thought of it first."