June 2, 2003
Israel, the Palestinians, Sharon, Arafat and George W. Bush
A BUZZFLASH EDITORIAL
After ignoring the unending bloodshed between Israel and the Palestinians for the first two years of his administration, Bush is being sent out by Karl Rove to burnish up his appearance as a "statesman." Rove decided, what with all the serial lying about Iraq emerging and all, it was time for George to appear to care about the thousands of Israelis and Palestinians killed and injured during the course of his administration. Karl is the master of the "divert attention and change the subject" strategy, after all.
When Bush took office, Clinton had come dazzlingly close to forcing the two implacable foes to accept a giant step toward peace. However, Richard Perle, among other Bush backers, worked hard to insure that the agreement didn't go through. Perle even allegedly contacted the Israeli Prime Minister at the time, urging him to hold out for a Bush administration coming into office. Not that Arafat was too eager to pen his name to the agreement either. He also had extremists on his side whispering into his ear not to go along with the Clinton brokered agreement. And Arafat has never been particularly keen on peace either. He's a common thug who rose to power. (We are reserving judgment on his new negotiator.)
So what was to be the crowning foreign policy achievement of the Clinton administration collapsed under the weight of obstructionists from both sides of the conflict, including Bush supporters undercutting America's commander in chief.
Richard Perle wasn't just urging then Prime Minister Barak to hold off for Bush. Perle must have known that an Ariel Sharon tenure in the Israeli PM's office wasn't far off. Sharon's Likud party is the spiritual, fundamentalist and politically bankrupt equivalent of the Bush Cartel Republican Party. They even agree on the same style of crony capitalism offered under the bait and switch euphemism of opening up a "free market economy" (i.e., reward my campaign contributors with contracts and screw everyone else). The Likud and the Bush Cartel are two birds of the same feather. Actually, Benjamin Netanyahu, who was educated in the U.S. and used to be a regular television pundit on American news shows, is the favored Israeli politician of the American extremist right (AKA, the Republican Party), but Sharon will do.
The Likud party betrays the rich legacy of progressive Labor Party politics in Israel. But over the years, the Labor Party in Israel, like the Democratic Party in America, has lost touch with its roots and like the Democrats in the U.S. has become dazed and confused by the strong arm, thuggish tactics of its nemesis, the Likud. Sound familiar?
When the latest infitada and round of suicide bombings flared up, Bush sent Ari Fleischer out to blame, you guessed it, Clinton for the massacres. Then Bush himself implied that Clinton's hasty negotiating was behind it. (The Bush family motto, of course, is "We never take responsibility for anything. It is always the fault of the other guy.")
Forget for a moment that Ariel Sharon consciously lit the fuse of the current infitada when he decided to take a stroll on the Temple Mount.* Bush blaming Clinton for risking his foreign policy reputation for peace is a bit like Richard Nixon accusing peace protesters in the '60's of being responsible for the Vietnam War.
So what will happen now, given that Rove has pushed Bush into the middle of the Middle East fighting? We predict Ariel Sharon will make some public relations concessions to make Bush appear like he squeezed something out of the old war horse, but not really following through with the compromises after the 2004 American election if Bush wins. We predict that the moderate Palestinian leaders won't be able to control the radical organizers of the suicide bombings for a prolonged period of time, because there is little Palestinian government infrastructure since Sharon has destroyed most of it. There may be an announcement of a temporary cessation of suicide bombing. But, for different reasons, the radical Palestinians and the extreme rightist members of the Likud don't want peace until they destroy their opponent. The majority of Israelis and Palestinians who do want peace are caught in the crossfire.
Outside of Bush's belated public relations stunt to "bring peace to the Middle East" (after allowing Rumsfeld and his gang to undercut Powell on his previous attempts at negotiating an interim ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian leadership), there would have to be a complete mindset change in the current Likud leadership and the current Palestinian leadership to end the downward spiral of unfathomable violence.
On the other hand, peace IS achievable between Israel and the Palestinians, or at least a truce. But it would require some real hardball on the part of the U.S.
The basic requirements of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians have been known for some time: a Palestinian state, the dismantling of Israeli settlements in the West Bank (although there might be some minor boundary adjustments), the abandonment of "the right of return" by the Palestinian negotiating body, the recognition -- in word and deed -- of Israel by all surrounding Arab states as a nation, and Jerusalem, for the foreseeable future, would remain divided into the current Israeli and Arab sectors, with the Arab section restored to a newly created Palestinian state. The U.N. or U.S. would guarantee open access to all of Jerusalem, with the Israelis in charge of their half and the Palestinians in charge of their half. Finally, for peace with Syria, there would need to be a partial or full return of the Golan Heights, with military defense guarantees for Israel. (The Jerusalem issue remains the most contentious point for both sides and, in the past, was deferred to "final negotiation" status.) Obviously, these positions cannot be negotiated unless the suicide bombings end or dramatically decrease and the cycle of Israeli military reprisals similarly comes to a halt. But that will probably only happen if a third party comes in and knocks heads.
Sometimes, in despair over the loss of Israeli and Palestinian lives in recent years, we have forgotten that Israel, Egypt and Jordan signed a peace treaty under a Democratic President, Jimmy Carter. Since the State of Israel was created, it had been the dream of many Israelis to be able to walk across a border into a surrounding country. That dream was achieved by Carter, despite great skepticism. It has been a tense peace, but a peace nonetheless. Other dreams can be achieved too.
Yitzhak Rabin, Bill Clinton's closest friend as a foreign policy leader, was assassinated by right wing Israelis because he sought peace.
Yitzhak Rabin is a hero to BuzzFlash.com. He was a heralded Israeli general who came around to wanting a future of peace for his grandchildren.
Anwar Sadat is a hero to BuzzFlash.com. Also a successful military man, he wanted Egypt to become a prosperous nation, not burdened by the costs in lives and money of ongoing wars with Israel. He too was killed by extremists because he had a dream of peace for his people and his nation.
It is the extremist leadership around the world, whether in the U.S. or in Israel, that has shown itself to be the enemy of peace.
Nothing, and we mean nothing, more polarizes BuzzFlash readers than the war between Israel and the Palestinians. We get daily e-mails accusing BuzzFlash of being unrelentingly pro-Israel and daily e-mails accusing us of being unrelentingly pro-Palestinian.
We are BOTH because we cannot tolerate the suicide attacks against Israelis or the excessive reprisals against the Palestinians. Israel has a right to protect itself from suicide attacks, but Ariel Sharon appears to be engaging in something a bit more excessive than that -- and that's to put it mildly. (The number of Palestinian youth and children killed in the IDF reprisals is completely unacceptable.)
You also have to wonder how effective Sharon's strategy can be at stopping suicide bombers. As BuzzFlash.com has noted before, how can you threaten to deter suicide bombers by threatening to kill them? Indeed, it was tragically laughable when Bush once again vowed to track down the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia. He was a little late for that. They had already blown themselves to bits.
There is room in the Middle East for a prosperous Israel and a prosperous Palestine. Both nations have a right to exist. The Bush administration has wasted more than two years in taking a leadership position in stopping the violence. It will not happen without a strong, determined, skilled third party broker.
We can only weep for the Israeli victims of suicide bombers and hope that this cycle of carnage will cease. We can only weep for the "collateral damage" Palestinian victims of Ariel Sharon's excesses in trying to fight terrorism. Clearly Sharon's tactics have not worked. Those who support Sharon as the only option for leadership in Israel are caught up in the same dead end logic that claims only Bush can protect the U.S. from terrorism. In reality, both leaders have secondary agendas that go beyond the immediate effort to squelch terrorism. In fact, both leaders may be adopting strategies whose primary goals are something other than stopping terrorism. In the case of Bush, it is the permanent rule of the Republican Party and the enactment of an extremist, radical domestic and foreign policy agenda, along with contracts and new markets for campaign supporters. In the case of Sharon, it is the destruction of a Palestinian political and urban infrastructure to drive the Palestinians out of the West Bank. (What Sharon's ultimate aim for Gaza is remains unclear.)
You can argue that Ariel Sharon is a bad leader for Israel and still support the right of the State of Israel to exist, just as you can argue that Bush is a bad leader for the United States and still champion the security of America. In fact, in both cases, you can argue that their leadership styles and actions actually hamper the long-term security of our two respective nations.
The only rational side one can take about the Biblical conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is the side of peace.
Just a short time ago, we read about how, for the first time, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots can now travel across into the other half of their island nation. One man saw the other half of his divided street for the first time in decades. It wasn't too many years ago when the age-old hatred between the Greeks and the Turks almost turned Cyprus into a genocidal conflict. Now there is peace and an open border.
It can happen between Israel and the Palestinians. But peace won't come from the extremists of either side or the extremist in the White House, unless someone knocks some common sense and sense of vision into all of their heads.
Too bad the fundamentalist extremists of the world kill off the men of peace.
Too bad the fundamentalist extremists of the world steal elections from the men of peace.
Too bad fundamentalist extremists of the world value their own political futures and radical ideologies more than the lives of children.
A functioning peace can be had between Israel and the Palestinians. The problem is that it demands leadership.
Sharon, Arafat and Bush all represent failed leadership.
Given three leaders with secondary agendas different than the ones that they publicly announce, for the first time BuzzFlash is going to do something George W. Bush has recommended.
We are going to pray for a miracle.
The children and families of Israel and Palestine deserve to live. May God grant them futures filled with graduations, weddings and births, the joys and pleasures of human life. There have been far too many funerals. May God will it.
It is a simple prayer.
A BUZZFLASH EDITORIAL
* * *
* Here is a Canadian Broadcasting Company article describing Ariel Sharon's trip to Temple Mount in Jerusalem at a time of delicate negotiations between Labor Prime Minister Barak, Clinton and the Palestinians:
Barak versus Sharon – On the wings of a hawk?
"One of the most historic walks taken in the Middle East, where there have been many, was one Ariel Sharon took last September when he decided to visit Temple Mount, the holy place in Jerusalem's walled Old City.
Temple Mount is a Muslim holy place, where the prophet Muhammad is believed to have ascended to heaven. It is also a Jewish holy place, believed to be where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac. So what's the big deal?
Sharon's walk came at a sensitive time in relations between Israelis and Palestinians, when vital peace talks were being held, brokered by former U.S. president Bill Clinton. Sharon's walk was regarded by many Palestinians as provocative, incendiary, perhaps signaling a move toward taking control of Temple Mount.
Riots erupted the next day and over the next four months nearly 400 people were killed, most of them Palestinians, in what has been called the al-Aqsa Intifada. Sharon's walk to Temple Mount also helps explain why the 72-year-old right-wing military hero is on the verge of becoming Israel's new prime minister.
At the time of the Temple Mount incident, Sharon wasn't even on the short list as a prime ministerial candidate. If incumbent Prime Minister Ehud Barak, 58, faced serious opposition, most analysts thought it would be from former prime ministers Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu.
Sharon and Barak go toe-to-toe in a prime ministerial election on Tuesday, with Sharon now the prohibitive favourite. Days before the election, polls showed Sharon leading Barak by 20 percentage points. The gap may narrow by election day, but Sharon looks like a shoo-in, which makes many people uneasy."
Additional BuzzFlash Note: About Richard Perle's meddling in Bill Clinton's 2000 peace talks:
at peace talks 'meddling'
Julian Borger in Washington Thursday July 13, 2000 The Guardian
The Middle East peace talks at Camp David became the subject of a political scandal in the US last night when reports emerged that one of George W Bush's foreign policy advisers had warned the Israeli delegation to be prepared to walk out of negotiations.
Richard Perle, a veteran cold war warrior and former assistant secretary of state, urged the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, not to agree to any settlement which left the future status of Jerusalem unresolved, according to the New York Post website.
The website quoted a message received by Mr Barak yesterday from two of his emissaries, Yoram Ben-Ze'ev and Yossi Alpher. The two men said Mr Perle "asked us to send a clear message" to Mr Barak that it would be a "catastrophe" if the Jerusalem question was not dealt with, and urged him "to walk away" from the Camp David negotiations if faced with that outcome.
office had no comment on the report yesterday. Mr Ben-Ze'ev, contacted
by mobile phone, said he was in Houston, Texas - Governor Bush's
home state - but would not explain the purpose of his visit and also
refused to comment on the newspaper report."
otherwise noted, all original