Bush's Middle Eastern Policy
Action is needed now, before Sharon destroys any hopes for peace
President Bush's speech on 6/24/02, will be historic if it is followed immediately by actions on the ground. The Sharon government should stop its rampage in the West Bank and Gaza. Assassinations should stop immediately. While President Bush was delivering his speech, six Palestinians were assassinated by Israeli helicopters. If this is repeated, it is more likely that Palestinians will react, and the cycle of violence will continue. Sharon has to be told to stop in order for the President's plan to work.
Secretary Powell should be sent to the region without delay to put the plan into practice. Israel must withdraw its occupation forces in order for Palestinians to be able to hold their elections and conduct their reforms. The Bush administration should not wait six more months to start the implementation of the plan. Israeli atrocities and Palestinian reactions to them may make peace impossible then. There can be neither Palestinian reforms nor elections if the Israeli occupation continues. Therefore, the first and most important step is the Israeli withdrawal and the Israeli cessation of attacks and assassinations of the Palestinians.
Finally, the Bush administration should not keep telling Palestinians to elect new leaders, implying that if Arafat is reelected, then there will be neither peace nor state for them. This is a Palestinian decision, that should be made by voters only. After all, Palestinians have never demanded that Israelis get rid of Sharon first. This is a golden opportunity for peace that should be seized, and it is in the interest of all, not just the Palestinian people.
Major Implications of President Bush's speech:
First, Sharon's policy has become the officialMiddle East policy of the United States. This means that the Israeli occupation and destruction will continue until Sharon is satisfied that he has crushed the Palestinian resistance and broken the will of the Palestinian people. This also means that there will be no negotiations, no withdrawal, and no halt in settlement activities until Sharon is satisfied, which may never happen. So, the bloodshed continues.
Second, Colin Powell and the peace camp in the Bush administration have lost big. Dick Cheney and Don Ramsfeld, supported by Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Haass, and Richard Pearl, have won the internal battle in the administration. This means that the conflict with the Arab and Muslim worlds may be going to be resolved militarily, not by peaceful means as Colin Powell has argued. Sharon's method is more likely to be followed in Iraq and other Muslim and Arab countries. So, this could be the affirmation of the long Cold (but bloody) War II.
Third, the adoption of the Sharon policy contradicts with the national interests of the United States. It puts the interests of Israel ahead of interests of the United States, which sheds some light on the size of the Israeli influence over the US government.
Finally, and most important, it points to a problem of morality and ethics. How can we ask the Palestinians, who are under occupation, to conduct reforms, hold elections, fight "terrorism," and cooperate with their Israeli oppressors? Isn't that the old sad story, blaming the victim? Is this all what the superpower of the world can do? Where are the braves to speak out? Kudos to Pat Buchanan, to Ted Turner, to Laura Bush, and to Mrs. Blair.
Hassan A. El-najjar