Buencamino does foreign affairs analysis for the NGO Action for Economic Reforms. This piece was published in the newspaper Today, page 9, 29 April 2004 edition.
I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully. -George W. Bush, Saginaw, Mich., Sept. 29, 2000
Ariel Sharon has just reeled in the big one. He got George W. Bush’s unequivocal support for Israel’s position in the Palestine-Israel conflict. Soon, Arafat will be stuffed and mounted on his wailing wall.
Back in Israel, Sharon held up his catch and told his people, “The Palestinians understand that written commitments [by Bush] are the most serious blow that they have suffered since our declaration of independence [in 1948].”
Bush’s written commitments to Sharon could well have been written by Sharon to himself with Bush signing as a witness.
Bush places the burden of peace solely on the Palestinians. “Palestinians must undertake an immediate cessation of armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere, and all official Palestinian institutions must end incitement against Israel.” Nowhere is there even a hint of an equal burden on Israel.
On the contrary, Bush says “Israel will retain its right to defend itself—including to take actions against terrorist organizations.” Because the word “occupied” does not appear anywhere, Bush concedes Israel’s right to define self-defense and appropriate defensive responses. A rock-throwing attack by Palestinian children on Israeli tanks can be repelled by a rocket-attack from helicopter gun-ships; an American girl obstructing the destruction of a Palestinian home can be murdered with a bulldozer driven by an Israeli soldier; a Palestinian bank allegedly doing business with suspected terrorists can be ransacked by Israeli soldiers and its money hauled off to Israel; and Palestinian leaders can be assassinated at will, all in the name of what Israel calls self-defense.
Palestinians know that Israel owns the language of their conflict. They have suffered this handicap for generations. They know that America will continue to condone anything that Israel calls self-defense until they too adopt certain protocols.
Palestinians are disturbed about Bush’s unequivocal position on three points central to the Palestine-Israel conflict.
Bush told Sharon, “The United States appreciates the risks such an undertaking [Gaza disengagement plan] represents. I therefore want to reassure you [Sharon] on several points.”
What are these points that are so reassuring to Israel but so disturbing to the Palestinians?
On Sharon’s Gaza disengagement plan, Bush said, “The United States understands that after Israel withdraws from Gaza and/or parts of the
West Bank, and pending agreements on other arrangements, existing arrangements regarding control of airspace, territorial waters, and
land passages of the West Bank and Gaza will continue.”
Sharon’s Gaza disengagement plan is to undertake a virtual withdrawal and Bush has no problem with virtual reality. About the return of lands acquired by Israel through war, Bush said, ” In light of new realities on the ground it is unrealistic to expect a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.”
Bush adopted Israel’s interpretation of UN resolutions 242 and 388 so that territory acquired by Israel through war is admissible. Israel can keep all the territories it wants to keep.
As for the right of Palestinian refugees to return to Israel, Bush said, “It seems clear that an agreed, just, fair, and realistic framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue will need to be found through the establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian refugees there, rather than in Israel.” Bush’s solution is to deny the right of Palestinian refugees to return to
their homes within the ever-expanding borders of Israel.
Bush canceled a universally recognized human right so that Israel will not have to take back an ethnic group that it had expelled. “The United States is strongly committed to Israel’s security and well-being as a Jewish state.” At another time and another place, the means towards reaching such a state of “well-being” was called the Final Solution.
In a Washington, DC news conference, Bush told his audience, “Ariel Sharon came to America and he stood up with me and he said, ‘We are pulling out of Gaza and parts of the West Bank.’ In my judgment, the whole world should have said, ‘Thank you, Ariel, now we have a chance to begin the construction of a peaceful Palestinian state.’ Instead, there was kind of silence, wasn’t there?”
Ariel Sharon dropped a line and reeled him in and Bush didn’t even know it.
As someone once said, “Nothing looks as beautiful and smells as rotten as a salmon gleaming in the moonlight.”