01-07-2008, 10:00 PM
Quote:At Annapolis, President Bush played favorites. In subtle and not-so-subtle ways, he demonstrated et again that the United States is a dishonest broker in the Middle East.At Annapolis, President Bush played favorites. In subtle and not-so-subtle ways, he demonstrated et again that the United States is a dishonest broker in the Middle East.
"Terrorism is the enemy standing in the way" of a Palestinian state, he said.
He did not say, "Occupation is the enemy standing in the way."
He put the onus on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to "dismantle the infrastructure of terror," something Abbas is not strong enough to do. He said Abbas offers Palestinians "a vision of peace, a homeland of their own, and a better life." But he warned: "If responsible Palestinians cannot deliver on this hopeful vision, then the forces of extremism and terror will be strengthened, a generation of Palestinians could be lost to the extremists, and the Middle East will grow in despair."
And it will all be their fault, Bush implied.
By contrast, Bush went easy on Israel.
First, he essentially ruled out of order any discussion of the right of return when he said the final settlement will establish Israel "as a Jewish state and homeland for Jewish people." That formulation was a precondition that Israel's far-right Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman demanded, and Bush handed it to him, even though this was supposed to be one of the "core issues" to be negotiated.
In so doing, Bush was merely reiterating the concession he gave Ariel Sharon back in April 2004 when Bush said in a letter that the Palestinian refugees would have to be resettled in a new Palestinian state as opposed to being able to reclaim their land or homes.
At Annapolis, Bush also low-balled Israeli obligations by saying Israel must show its support for the creation of a Palestinian state only "by removing unauthorized outposts, ending settlement expansion, and finding other ways for the Palestinian Authority to exercise its responsibilities without compromising Israel's security."
But the road map, which Bush and Rice have paid so much lip service to recently, says Israel must dismantle all settlements--not just outposts--that were erected after March 2000. So Bush, on day one of this new initiative, is allowing Israel to renege.
This makes a mockery of the joint statement that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas signed, committing both parties to "continue the implementation of the ongoing obligations of the road map." And guess who will referee this implementation? "The United States will monitor and judge the fulfillment of the commitment of both sides of the road map," the statement says. How can Bush monitor this when he already has winked at Israeli settlements?
Finally, Bush set up a false dichotomy between Israelis, who want to "enjoy the security they deserve," and Palestinians, who want to "enjoy the blessings that freedom brings." But Palestinians, too, want to enjoy the security they deserve. Security not just--or even primarily--from Palestinian "terrorists and extremists," as Bush put it, but security from Israeli bombings, invasions, assassinations, checkpoints, and economic strangulation.
Even as the Annapolis conference was under way, Israel was reducing the supply of fuel to everyone in Gaza.
But Bush didn't say a peep about that.
Nor did he mention the fact that the Knesset recently adopted a bill requiring a two-thirds majority (virtually impossible to obtain) before Israel can agree to change the borders of Jerusalem.
"How can the Palestinians have a state without a capital in jerusalem?" That's one of the questions Robert Fisk, the Mideast bureau chief of the London Independent, asked in his column on Annapolis. He also asked: "How can they have a state when their entire territory has been chopped up and divided by Jewish settlements and the settler roads and, in parts, by a massive war?"
Fisk said the summit was "an exercise in self-delusion" that will turn out badly for all. "The worst element of the whole Annapolis shindig is that once again millions of people across the Middle East--Muslims, Jews, and Christians--will believe all this and will then turn, after its failure, with fury on their antagonists for breaking these agreements."
Olmert himself seemed to recognize one of the risks of failure. "If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished," he told the Israeli paper Haaretz.
This is the contradiction at the heart of Israel as a democratic, Jewish state. It cannot forever be both democratic and Jewish. If Palestinians or if Israeli Arabs become a majority in the country, Israel could be democratic, but it wouldn't be a Jewish state. Olmert and Bush, too, are desperately worried about that possibility. But rather than reaffirming Israel as a democratic state, they've reaffirmed it as a Jewish state.
On the other side, irredentist elements of Hamas condemned any effort at Annapolis to reach an accord, holding out for no Israeli state whatsoever. "Palestinian land is from the sea to the river," said Mahmoud Zahar, a popular Hamas figure in Gaza. And Hamas's leader, Ismail Haniya, said, "Let the whole world hear us: We will not relinquish a centimeter of Palestine, and we will not recognize Israel."
Now that's a fine how-do-you-do. Hamas's position is antiquated, since whether it wants to recognize Israel or not, Israel is going to be there. It's one of the most powerful countries in the world, and it's not going away. Hamas is also becoming isolated even among other Arab nations, which have already agreed to recognize Israel if it withdraws from all the occupied territories. Hamas and Islamic Jihad, with their hideous terror attacks, are allies of the Israeli rejectionists in the effort to squander peace.
Olmert, for all his worry about the "demographic bomb," himself leans to the rejectionist side. Just like Sharon before him, he uses the likelihood of Palestinian attacks as an excuse to do nothing substantive. "Olmert said the Palestinians would have to rein in terrorism before Israel would make major moves to dismantle settlements," The New York Times reported.
This stance of convenience leads some leftwing critics in Israel to one simple conclusion: "Israel does not want peace." That's what Gideon Levy of Haaretz said at a roundtable discussion in Tel Aviv entitled "Is Annapolis Relevant?" He added: "The State of Israel faces a clear choice between peace and occupation, and prefers the occupation." He noted that even as Olmert's plane was taking off for the United States, "construction work goes on at eighty-eight settlements."
Levy, who was a spokesman for Shimon Peres, believes that most Palestinians want peaceful coexistence with Israel. "Among Palestinians," he says, "the real longing is for living together, while among Israelis, the desire is for separation--let them separate, disappear, vanish, let us see nothing of them any more behind the high wall."
For there to be any decent chance of a durable peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, the United States would have to insist that Israel make the necessary concessions. But even before the photo-ops, Bush made clear that he was on Israel's side and was not going to push too hard.
Only if Bush were to tell Olmert that he must withdraw from the West Bank and dismantle all the settlements would there be any hope of following the road map to peace. But Bush said no such thing. Instead, he pointed to an exit ramp.
"The outcome of the negotiations ... depends on the Israelis and Palestinians themselves," he said. "America will do everything in our power to support their quest for peace, but we cannot achieve it for them."
By his words and by his inactions, Bush is ensuring failure. Every time he unfolds the road map, he tears it some more.
edit) is the quote wrapping function kaput now?
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