Last night's long-awaited speech by President Bush was to set the
pace for the Palestinians and Israelis to step back from the vicious
and bloody cycle of violence that has gripped them for nearly two
years. Instead, President Bush and his administration have publicly
adopted the Israeli agenda of battering the Palestinians into
submission. President Bush's illusion that the Palestinian-Israeli
conflict may be 'talked away' in a series of speeches is not only a
poor example of leadership but seriously places U.S. interests in the
region at high risk.
President Bush's administration has utterly failed to comprehend the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict and in particular the Palestinian
predicament today which is an Israeli re-occupation of the small
parcels of land that were transferred to the Palestinian Authority
under the Oslo Peace Accords. To add insult to injury, President
Bush continues to mismanage U.S. policy with unprecedented
unaccountability to the U.S. Congress or the world community.
Bush's chronological attempts to address the crisis are as follows:
ignore the conflict - failed, send Powell to the region - failed, the
Mitchell Report - failed, the Tenet Plan - failed, Bush's UN speech -
failed, Secretary of State Powell's policy speech in Kentucky - failed,
send General Zinni on multiple missions - failed, and the most recent
call for an international conference (completely ignored in Bush's
latest speech) - failed. If the creativity applied to avoiding real U.S.
action were used to put an implementation mechanism in place to
end the Israeli occupation the region would be well out of the conflict
To a naive audience President Bush's speech may have sounded
like a sensible framework for progress, but for anyone with any
understanding at all of the Middle East, it was clearly a shallow
attempt in diplomacy that amounts to U.S. surrender of its Middle
East foreign policy to the ranks of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
and Israel's lobby in the U.S. Indeed, the speech was praised by
Israel's right, which has rejected Palestinian statehood outright.
President Bush continues to be blinded by the events of 9-11 and
refuses (or deceitfully avoids) to see the Palestinian issue outside
the framework of the yet undefined phenomena of "terrorism".
Palestinians were stripped of their national, civil, and human rights
decades before the word terrorism became a buzzword. By placing
the Palestinian struggle for freedom and independence in a 9-11
mold, the U.S. is only prolonging a solution and feeding the
bloodshed, exactly as Israel has been doing for 36 consecutive
years now. Today the U.S. is ideally positioned to finally take real
action and use its global leverage to end Israeli occupation, instead it
has succumb to an extremist Israeli government that views the fate
of illegal Israeli settlements the same as it views the fate of Tel Aviv.
By reducing the entire conflict in the region to the existence of an
individual Palestinian leader, or set of leaders, the Bush
Administration has fallen for the red herring that was designed,
produced and marketed by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
President Bush needs to remember that Former President Carter
was part of the international election monitoring team that gave the
Palestinian Presidential elections a stamp of approval. Furthermore,
the Palestinians are fully aware of the weaknesses in their
leadership and have been working to correct it for many years now.
Instead of supporting Palestinian reformist the U.S. has chosen to
make their efforts more difficult by making them look as if they are
aligned to an Israeli strategy of reform before freedom. A U.S. led
international campaign to mettle in internal Palestinian politics will
only setback the efforts of those Palestinians that have already
started making concrete steps for change.
To craft U.S. policy in an entire region around new elections for an
already expired Palestinian Authority is yet another display of Israeli
setting of U.S. policy. More frightening is President Bush's criteria
for the new leadership to be "not compromised by terror." We can
only assume that this will be translated by way of Jerusalem to mean
that only those Palestinians who have not been involved in
resistance against occupation would be accepted. This is a clever
way to say that no Palestinian is eligible for acceptance into this U.S.
policy and thus give Israel more time to destroy Palestinian
communities and any hope for co-existence.
Israeli Prime Minister Sharon, President Bush's advisors, the
powerful pro-Israel lobby in the U.S. and the U.S. Congress have
clearly provoked President Bush to become a martyr in the name of
continued Israeli military occupation of Palestinians. As with most
martyrs who fail to see how their emotionally charged act will
negatively reflect on the real issues at hand, President Bush stands
proud and tall in support of Israel while the U.S. economy, U.S. allies
in the region, U.S. homeland security and the U.S. global leadership
position all take the brunt of his misaligned and ill advised policy, if it
can even be considered "policy".
The authors of this article have written throughout the last two years
on every one of the issues the President spoke about in his speech.
We predicted each failed U.S. step. Every time we have advised the
U.S. on the way out of the crisis - to put forth action, not words, in
ending the Israeli occupation. We still strongly believe that as long
as Israeli occupation is permitted to survive, the U.S. can revisit the
issue in 10 days or 10 months or 10 years and would face the same
- Palestinians, stripped of their rights, dignity, land and freedom will
continue to struggle, with Arafat or without, to end their predicament,
and Israelis will continue to suffer.
It is time - past time, to use Secretary of State Powell's words - for
the U.S. to put actions behind its policies. Until then we await the
next speech by President Bush and brace ourselves for the next
series of bombings.
June 25, 2002
Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American businessman living in the
besieged Palestinian City of Al-Bireh/Ramallah in the West Bank and
may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He is co-author of HOMELAND:
Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians (1994).
Dahan is an Israeli-American political scientist living in Jerusalem
and can be reached at email@example.com.
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