Sorry to say, I have to apologize.
And to myself, of all people.
This is how it was. A short time
after the destruction of the Twin Towers, on September 11, 2001, I
wrote: A basic change in the American attitude towards the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict is going to take place. The US is going to
impose a settlement which will satisfy the Palestinian demands, too.
This assessment was not based on any
leak, but on logic. The terror that brought the towers down came from
the Arab world. It sprang from the anger and hatred that has accumulated
among the Arab masses. The oppression of the Palestinian people by the
Israeli government is the main (if not only) cause for these feelings.
In order to fight against terrorism, the US must remove this cause. This
is such a basic American interest, that even the power of the Jewish and
fundamentalist-Christian lobbies will not be able to overcome it.
I was completely convinced of this
logic. So I wrote articles, some of which were published in many
countries. I repeated it in dozens of lectures in the US and at a
press-conference on Capitol Hill.
And indeed, it seemed that I was
right. President Bush suddenly began to talk about the “vision” of the
Palestinian State. Colin Powell made a speech indicating that the US was
prepared to meet many of the Palestinian demands.
But then it stopped. The US went
to war in Afghanistan and won an amazing victory, destroying the rule of
the Taliban with almost zero losses, with only money and bombs. It
seemed that it did not need the help of anyone anymore, certainly not
Instead of looking for a solution
to the Palestinian problem, Bush gave the green light to Sharon, so that
he could run berserk in the Palestinian territories, re-conquer, kill,
destroy, uproot, besiege, surround and cut off. It seemed that Bush was
lending unqualified support to Sharon’s objectives: to break the
Palestinian national entity and its leadership, to bring the
Palestinians to their knees, to enlarge the settlements and annex the
territories. As usual, the blame was placed on the victims.
Arafat, according go Bush, was to blame for everything.
All this ran contrary to the
analysis I voiced after the September 11 outrage. I started to have
doubts. I asked myself: Where did I go wrong? Where is the weak link in
my chain of reasoning?
And then something dramatic
occurred. When Sharon escalated his actions and invaded the refugee
camps and towns, the Americans shut the door in his face.
What has happened? Simple: the
basic logic of the situation started at long last to assert itself.
After Afghanistan, Bush looked for
a new place to employ American power. He invented the “axis of evil”,
consisting of Iraq, Iran and North Korea. (What is the connection
between them? Perhaps God knows.)
The most reasonable target would
have been Iran, because its territory is best suited for laying the
Caspian Sea pipeline to the Indian Ocean. Sharon tried hard to push the
US in this direction. But Iran is a hard nut. Iraq is an easier target.
But Iraq is
not Afghanistan. It cannot be brought down by a few bombs. Moreover, if
it does go down, it is liable to break up into three parts: a Shiite
protectorate of Iran in the South, a Kurdish state in the north and a
small Sunni state in the middle. That would completely destabilize the
whole region, expose the Arab world to the Iranians and Turkey to
Even the US cannot start such a
complex action without the support of the Arab world. But when it put
out feelers, the Palestinian cause raised its head.
In order to understand this, one
has only to look several times a day at the newscasts of al-Jazeera
television, which reaches almost every home from Oman to Morocco. They
show what happens, and what happens is awful. The daily killing of
Palestinians, the wanton destruction wrought by tanks and bulldozers,
the crying, tears and funerals, are shown every hour together with
Palestinian guerilla exploits and suicide bombings. Every newscast is a
ticking bomb under the seats of the kings and presidents, who are being
compared by their subjects with the imprisoned lion in Ramallah.
The Arab governments are worried
that the situation in Palestine may cause “instability” all over the
region, endangering all the regimes, one after the other. They tell
Washington: In this situation we cannot help you to attack another Arab
country. It would break the camel’s back.
All this was already clear six
months ago, but now it has entered the consciousness of American
decision-makers. In the meantime, the real Sharon and his claws have
been seen by all. In Washington it is now understood that the Arab
masses have to be won over. That is the reason for the ultimatum
delivered to Sharon, which compelled him to evacuate his troops from the
center of Ramallah, to lift the blockade against Arafat and to give up
the slogan of “seven days without (Palestinian) violence.” It explains
the President Bush’s speech, in which he attacked Sharon in no uncertain
terms; the Security Council resolution inspired by the Americans, which
speaks about “the sates of Israel and Palestine”; the declaration by the
UN General Secretary expressing an international consensus, which
denounces the occupation and Israeli humiliation of the Palestinians.
So it transpires that what was
needed was only patience. It takes only minutes to conclude a train of
thought, but a super-power needs half a year to change its policy. Like
the mills of justice, the mills of reason work slowly. Many
slow-thinking officials have to get used to a new idea. Many think tanks
have to arrive at new conclusion (and experts do not like to reach
conclusions contrary to the wishes of the Boss). International pressures
and opposite internal pressures have to be balanced. In short, it’s a
However, the basic national
interest of a Great Power will overcome the obstacles, if the leaders do
not want to appear in books similar to “The March of Folly”.
The question remains: How serious
are they? Americans leaders may again be seduced into believing that
hollow phrases and token actions are sufficient – a withdrawal of
Israeli troops from one hill to another, another journey of General
Zinni, saying “phoooya” to Sharon, in order to pacify the Arab
governments and their peoples. The decision of Vice-President Cheney to
ignore President Arafat while visiting all the other Arab kings and
presidents does not bode well. Bush may decide to do as little as
possible against Sharon in order to avoid drawing flak from the Jewish
and Christian lobbies back home. That is where the Israeli peace
movement has a role to play.
In the end, the political logic
will win out. But it may take time – and in our county, time means
blood, tears and bereavement.
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