Visionary, or not?

by A.F. Nariman – Columnist (United States)
Sunday, June 30, 2002

( – Bush gave his long awaited speech on his vision for a new Palestinian State in the rose garden flanked by Colin Powell, Condi Rice, and Don “Rummy” Rumsfeld on June 25, 2002. After weeks of anticipation as to whether Bush was going to abandon his “I love Sharon” policy, which gave the right wing hawks in his party the heebie jeebies, Bush showed he was true to form. Visionary speech? I think not. The speech was all puff and no substance.

It held up a vision of a promised land, without any concrete steps to get there. All the requirements to move towards a Palestinian state were placed squarely on the Palestinians' shoulders, already bowed under the weight of 35 plus years of occupation. There were no substantive “requirements” of the Israeli government. It has been mockingly suggested that these were Sharon’s words out of Bush’s mouth.

According to the Bush dogma, Palestinians are required to stop all terrorist activities; a sentiment we can all agree with. However, considering that Arafat’s headquarters in Ramallah lies in rubble on the heels of three Israeli incursions since March 29, 2002, the Israelis have almost made it impossible for Arafat to do that which they insist he do, viz., stop the terrorists.

Both physically and psychologically the Sharon government by its actions has tied Arafat’s hands. The Israeli army has decimated the infrastructure of the Palestinian authorities – office buildings, jails, police, telephones and computers lie smashed in rubble.

At the same time it has raised the ire of the Palestinian peoples whose support for the terrorist suicide bombings has increased many-fold. This is like asking a man who has lost both his hands to capture and hold down the murderer. Hello!

The Palestinians have been asked to set up the infrastructure of a new democratic society. Again, a perfectly valid recommendation. However, Bush also intimated who will not be acceptable as the “newly” elected leader of the provisional Palestinian State. It was the unmentioned name that hung like a thick cloud over his speech. “Arafat who?”

If the U.S. asks for democratic elections, does that not mean that the Palestinians have the right to choose whom they will? How does Bush deem that he can call for democratic elections, with the condition it cannot be “you know who”! If Arafat is considered an unacceptable peace partner by the Israeli government, the same holds true for Sharon, who is considered a war criminal by the Palestinians.

Maybe Bush should be more even handed and ask both Sharon (along with his nemesis Bibi Netanyahu) and Arafat to step aside.

Bush should also be careful of what he asks for. What good would it do for the peace process if we succeed in getting rid of Arafat, and if then he is replaced by the fanatical head of either Hamas, or Islamic Jihad?

Bush's call for a Palestinian state in three years only if all his conditions are met by the Palestinian peoples is way too distant, way too condition driven, and way too one sided.

How about some conditions on the Israelis? How about asking them to stop using Arafat as their personal "piñata" every time a terrorist commits a murderous suicide bombing? Compared to the extremist Palestinian groups, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Arafat is a moderate who has come to accept a two state solution. Israel should go after the terrorist groups, or assist Arafat in going after them, instead of using Arafat as a false bogie man to maintain their hold on the occupied territories in their aggrandized vision of a "greater Israel" in the biblical lands of Judea and Samaria.

The idea of a “greater Israel” has been egged on by zealous Evangelist Christians who have done a 180 degree turn around from their anti-Semitic stance in the early part of the 20th century to becoming the biggest supporters of Israelis controlling all of the Palestinian lands. This can be evidenced by listening to Pat Robertson exhorting forth on the rights of Israelis to occupy all of Judea and Sumaria (the West Bank essentially).

Or, if one listened to House Majority Leader Dick Armey's embarrassing faux pas on Hardball on May 1, 2002, where he called for a greater Zionist state of Israel and physically transporting the Palestinians to another state. His statement calling for the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian peoples was so outrageous that even Chris Matthews jaw dropped as he incredulously asked Dick Armey if he really meant what he was saying.

The next day the majority leader’s office released a more subdued and revised version of what Dick had really "meant to say."

However, the Jewish people should be careful of their newly found friends including their "best" friend in the White House. The end game for these two peoples is very different. The Evangelists believe that the Apocalypse can only happen after Israel gains dominance in the biblical lands. This must precede the second coming of the Lord, at which time two-thirds of the Jews will be killed in a holy war and the remaining one-third will be converted to Christianity. Exit Judaism!

Why did Bush not state that U.S. aid would be conditional on the Israelis complying with the U.S. historical stance that all building of settlements should be halted, and that the Israeli settlements are illegal in the occupied territories? This is also the position held by the United Nations (UN), the European Union (EU) and the rest of the world.

Why are there no punitive conditions imposed on the Israelis when they flaunt their disregard for the U.S., the UN and world position on settlements? Why would Bush only withhold aid from the Palestinians if they do not follow “his” policy to remove Arafat, which appears to be based on a peevish personal dislike and is not supported by the UN or EU or other world authority?

Bush also exhorted other Middle Eastern states to stop supplying arms and money to the terrorist groups within Palestine. Again, a perfectly legitimate requirement. Yet he failed to recognize the U.S. has allowed, nay even fostered, an uneven war to exist by supplying $3.8 billion in aid annually to the Israeli government, which is mainly used by the Israelis to buy U.S. military hardware to continue their 35 plus years subjugation of a peoples.

A visionary president would have laid down a far more comprehensive and evenhanded peace plan requiring both sides to halt their misdeeds. The requirements should be “unilateral." This would prevent Israel from using the “perennial excuse” they have for decades to avoid the steps they need to take based on the notion that Arafat or the Palestinian Liberation Authority had not met its obligations.

Israeli settlements on the occupied lands are wrong under UN Charter and should be disbanded no matter what the other side is doing or not doing. They are also the cause of much of the frustration of the Palestinian people who see their land being usurped daily, a few acres at a time, making any final resolution of a Palestinian State less and less of a reality.

This is really what has led to this second Intifada – a desperation born out of the belief that the Israelis are not willing to give up their hold of the West bank and Gaza. The practice of building settlements must be stopped now! The U.S. must withhold its purse, if necessary, to force the Israelis to dismantle these settlements.

A truly visionary speech would have included the following:

  • A two-state solution along the pre-1967 borders within eighteen months, with one exception, Israel would have nominal control of the western wall. (He should have made it specific as to the final borders, and time specific.)
  • A defense treaty between the U.S. and Israel up to the 1967 borders.
  • A provisional UN peacekeeping force (including Americans) and/or a NATO force to monitor all aspects of peace and as a means to keep the two-sides apart during a cooling off period. (Something Israel has been adamantly against, so that they can go about their illegal actions.) The UN forces would be responsible for stopping the terrorist suicide bombings and going after the terrorist nests. The UN should also be required to stop the Israeli army going willy-nilly into the Palestinian controlled areas.
  • An absolute requirement for Israel to not only not build or expand new settlements, but to disband all Israeli settlements outside the 1967 borders and the resettlement of the settlers within the Israeli borders within eighteen months. Israelis who choose to remain in the West Bank will have to revoke their Israeli citizenship and become Palestinian Jews. They will not be afforded any special protection by the Israeli government.
  • A requirement that the “right of return” of the Palestinian refugees be limited to the newly formed Palestinian state. With Israel's acceptance, a small minority of refugees could return to their family homes inside Israel proper as Israeli Arabs. Arafat’s obstinacy on this has shown he does not understand that compromise requires tough choices.
  • A requirement for Palestinians to build the infrastructures of a democratic society, a judiciary system, and a market economy. (This was part of Bush’s speech.)
  • A requirement for other Middle Eastern governments to act in a responsible manner and stop funding terrorism. While this was part of Bush’s speech, it is also important for America to stop funding Israel’s state sponsored terrorism. U.S. aid should be specifically targeted to help the Israelis resettle the settlers within Israel’s 1967 borders.
  • A treaty between the U.S. and Provisional Palestinian government, which should be set up immediately after free and fair elections to safeguard their 1967 borders.
  • The U.S. should provide aid and assistance in rebuilding the infrastructure of the West bank and Gaza. (This was part of Bush’s speech.)
  • Finally, Bush could take the matter out of the hand of corrupt politicians on both sides of the divide. Bush should take Sharon and Arafat out of the equation and go directly to the people. Bush should propose a referendum to be held in both Palestine and Israel where the people would directly vote for:

    A two state solution along the pre-1967 borders:

    (1) Israelis settlers would be required to return to Israel proper, or give up their citizenship and any rights thereof and live as Palestinian Jews in harmony with the indigenous population.

    (2) The right of return of Palestinians would be limited to the newly formed Palestinian state. Israel would have to accept as many Palestinians inside Israel proper as the Israeli settlers who choose to remain in the West bank and Gaza.

    (3) Jerusalem will be divided along the pre-1967 borders, with one exception, the Israelis would get control (or share control) of the Western Wall (this is distinct from the Wailing Wall, which will also remain in Israeli control). West Jerusalem would serve as the Israeli Capital, and East Jerusalem would be the capital of the newly formed state of Palestine.

    (4) A peace treaty should be signed between the two neighboring states, and between Israel and the surrounding Arab nations, which would include a normalization of relations between the Jewish and the Arab states.

The vote on the referendum would be set up with the Palestinians being required to vote first - a week before the Israelis go to the polls. If as expected a majority of Palestinians vote "yes," then we can expect the Israeli population to feel safe in voting a resounding “yes” on the referendum.

Unless Bush, who currently wears the mantle of U.S. president, shows he is going to be an honest broker and tough on both parties, where toughness is due, this speech is nothing more than political rhetoric.

Without being evenhanded this is just another pretty speech, whose aim is to help Bush humor his right wing base, and win over some Jewish votes (usually the Democrat’s constituency) for the Republicans (Karl Rove’s strategy), while doing nothing to lessen the hatred and anger that is about to blow up the powder keg, which is the Middle East.

[A.F. Nariman has been interested in United States and world politics for close to twenty-six years. She has been a C-span junkie for the past decade or more. She has a yen for sleuthing out the intricacies of a political story. Her forte' is in the U.S. budget, as she is a Financial Advisor by profession and has a bachelor of science degree in mathematics and a MBA in Financial Institutions and Markets. She is a U.S. citizen and resides in New York State.]

A.F. Nariman encourages your comments:

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