In the first months of its term, prior to September 11th, the Bush administration adopted a policy of keeping up the aid to and diplomatic protection of Israel, but keeping their heads down and their hands off on peace talks. It wasn't terribly surprising—this was an administration whose members' economic and political power was thoroughly enmeshed in the oil industry, with a long history of relations with oil-rich Arab states. The oil and stability legs of the Middle East policy triplets were primary,but they were outweighed by the rise of the neo-conservatives and Christian fundamentalists whose support for Israel became unequivocal. Moreover, the Arab oil factor ceased to give leverage to Arab governments in the aftermath of September 11.
Certainly the existing close U.S. ties to Israel were strengthened. But despite the continuity of $5 billion or so in military and economic aid, and a continued threat and/or use of UN vetoes and walk-outs to protect Israel in the United Nations, the Bush policy became known as "disengagement." Europe, Arab states and others around the world began crying for "greater engagement," as if Washington's billions in aid, the protective vetoes, the diplomatic privileging of Israel did not constitute intimate engagement. It was just a kind of engagement that did not include an active commitment to serious peace efforts. U.S. diplomatic passivity, however, did not obscure the green light given to Sharon by the Bush administration to have a free hand against the civilian population of the occupied territories.