U.S. envoy to the Middle East, retired marine general Anthony Zinni's
announcement of his decision to end his cease-fire mission following his
meeting Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon adds yet another blunder to the
numerous failed attempts throughout history for the U.S. to act as a genuine
peace broker between Palestinians and Israelis.
As General Zinni shuttled back and forth between Israel and Palestine his
efforts were marred by an increased intensity of violence. Israeli F-16's
greeted his visit only 24 hours prior to his arrival, a wave of suicide bombers
entertained him while here, and F-16 strikes on Palestinian cities wished him
farewell. The series of events that propelled the cycle of violence comes as
no surprise to those living the daily horrors of Israel's 34 years of occupation
Blind to the facts on the ground being created by Israeli Prime Minister
Sharon, and Israel's previous administrations, General Zinni came riding into
the Middle East on Secretary of State Powell's white horse. Armed with the
newest U.S. Middle East initiative, he had the mandate to "prod" and
"present ideas". It seems the U.S. naively believed that a decorated U.S.
General could speak sense into a desecrated Israeli General.
Once again, the U.S. fails in mediation, leaving the region in a "might is
right" mode. Zinni's mission, and the hundreds before him, did not have to
end in failure. The tools to solve the conflict reside in Washington D.C., but
no U.S. Administration has had the political will or moral courage to employ
With U.S. taxpayer dollars freely flowing into Israel to a tune of $3 billion per
year, the U.S. has the financial clout to stop aid to Israel until steps are
taken toward ending Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinians. These funds
are directly responsible for the freeing of other funds that Israel uses to build
illegal settlements and fund its continued gross violations of human rights.
U.S. provided armaments, F-16's, Apache helicopters, M-16's, etc, are being
indiscriminately used to attack Palestinians, both civilians and Authority.
While U.S. decision-makers publicly "demand" explanation for Israel's
continued air strikes, which are, or have, destroyed any possibility for peace,
the U.S. refuses to stop arming Israel, even though U.S. Law requires its
weapons not be used in such cases.
As Israel's economy dramatically fails as it wages war on Palestinians, the
U.S. refuses to take additional economic measures to bring Israel in line with
the will of the world. Instead, Israel's free trade agreement status stands
unscathed providing an economic safety net for any Israeli aggression.
Most importantly, the U.S. fails to puts its weight behind the countless
number of UN resolutions that call for the end to Israel's military occupation
of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Instead, Secretary of
State Powell reiterated the U.S. position that, "The only lasting peace will be
the peace the parties make themselves." It is interesting how the occupied
are required to reach an agreement with the occupier, while in Iraq and
Afghanistan no agreement was required by the parties before the U.S. flexed
As the Israeli occupation generates more and more Palestinians that have
equated life under occupation to death, it is no wonder the phenomena of
suicide bombers exist. Ten years of Oslo, diplomacy and civil disobedience
got the Palestinians nowhere. Fifteen months of Intifada and sadly, six
months of suicide attacks have, for all practical purposes, stopped the
expansion of settlements, alerted the Israeli citizens that their government is
still oppressing their neighbors, seriously damaged the Israeli economy,
reduced Jewish immigration to Israel and brought the U.S. to recognize the
"P" word, Palestine.
Instead of forging forward a new path, the U.S. thrust has been to join an
Israeli character assassination of elected Palestinian President Yaser Arafat.
The U.S. would be well advised to address the core issue of ending
occupation rather than meddle in domestic Palestinian affairs. After all, it
was former President Jimmy Carter that monitored and certified the election
of President Arafat.
We wish General Zinni a nice life and we can promise him one thing. As
long as Israeli occupation is permitted to survive, he can come back in 10
months or 10 years and would have not missed much - Palestinians,
stripped of their dignity, land and freedom will continue to struggle, with
Arafat or without.
December 15, 2001
Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American living in the besieged Palestinian
City of Al-Bireh in the West Bank and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Michael Dahan is an Israeli-American political
scientist living in Jerusalem and can be reached at email@example.com.