Remember what George Bush said in 2002, just prior to destroying Iraq? His words were: "Success in Iraq could also begin a new stage for Middle Eastern peace, and set in motion progress towards a truly democratic Palestinian state. And the United States and other nations are working on a road map for peace. We are setting out the necessary conditions for progress toward the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. It is the commitment of our government — and my personal commitment — to implement the road map and to reach that goal."
Mr. Bush proposed two states living side by side in peace. This was during the intense bombing of Afghanistan that triggered so much anguish in the Muslim world; it was also during the planning of America’s illegal war against Iraq, which inevitably would generate more anger against the West. And then there was the dispatch of 20,000 Israeli troops into the Occupied Territories to search villages, refugee camps and cities in the West Bank and Gaza, resulting in much bloodshed.
If there was ever a better time to propose Palestinian statehood, it was then. But Bush’s rhetoric was no more than an exercise in mind games with two objectives: first, to playact for the Palestinian and Muslim masses while America illegally bombed Iraq; second, to provide a fig leaf covering the impotence of neighboring Arab rulers, as well as the criminal, racist and inhumane indifference of the international community toward the intense sufferings of the Palestinian people.
So on June 24, 2002 President George Bush strode into the White House Rose Garden and declared that the U.S. will "support the creation of a provisional state of Palestine" if Palestinians "embrace democracy, confront corruption and firmly reject terror." For their part, the Palestinians embraced democracy and elected a truly democratic Hamas government; but instead of gaining freedom, liberty and democracy, they are being starved by the international community.
Now it is 2006 — a full four years later — and nothing has changed. In fact, things are even worse for Palestinians. On Feb.18 2005, shortly after the Sharm al-Sheikh summit between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Barbara Plett of the BBC wrote in her summit analysis that "according to the Israeli human rights group B’tselem, some 80% of the 4,100 Palestinian homes demolished during the past four years have been destroyed in Israeli operations to create buffer zones around army posts, roads and Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories."
Israel is obsessed with eliminating legitimate Palestinian leaders and has unilaterally forged ahead with illegal settlement building on the West Bank. They are confronted daily by state-sanctioned terrorism; the threat of the Israeli army has not diminished one iota. In three- and- a-half years, the "road map to peace" has led nowhere. Despite Israel’s pullout from Gaza, the territory’s 1.4 million Palestinians remain hemmed inside a prison by an Israeli blockade backed by tanks and warplanes. International sanctions have inflicted further hardship on government employees whose wages have been unpaid for months. Oh yes, let us not forget the road map to nowhere!
In his Guardian article of Feb. 22, 2003 Chris McGreal wrote: "Israel is demanding more than 100 changes to the United States ‘road map’ towards the establishment of a Palestinian state, deepening the fears of skeptics on both sides who say Ariel Sharon is not serious about peace. The revelation of the demands in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, came as a senior U.S. state department official, William Burns, met Palestinian leaders in London to tell them there was no prospect of the Palestinian peace process moving forward until after any conflict in Iraq [is resolved]."
The truth is that Bush’s two-state declaration prior to his Iraq attack had no significance. It was just a mind game.
Ironically, the international "shock and awe" aroused by the Lebanon and Iraq wars, have sparked new pressure on both the U.S. and the apartheid state of Israel to renew serious efforts toward Middle East peace. Interestingly, while Dick Cheney and George Bush spent their recent good will tour meeting with long term supporters of America’s Middle East policy, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was reaching out to Palestinians.
On Nov. 27, 2006 Amy Teibel of Associated Press wrote that Olmert, in one of his most conciliatory speeches yet, said "…’he was prepared to grant them [Palestinians] a state, release desperately needed funds and free prisoners if they choose the path of peace.’ Olmert appealed to the Palestinians to form a new, moderate Cabinet … Once such a government was established, Olmert said, he would call for an immediate meeting with the moderate Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, ‘to have a real, open, honest, serious dialogue between us’."
Then there is Britain’s PM Tony Blair, who has pledged to make reviving the peace process a personal priority during his remaining months in office. He was singing the same tune before attacking Iraq for its so-called "weapons of mass destruction" — or perhaps it was to effect regime change; or maybe, to make Israel safe; or perhaps for oil. Or, it could have been to support a Palestinian State. It is so difficult to know the truth with these politicians!
Oh yes — let us not forget that since the end of Israeli-Hezbollah fighting in Lebanon on Aug. 14, the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Syria have been saying that in order to prevent further conflicts, the time for a new push in the peace process is now.
On Sept. 22, 2006 an Associated Press report said that "Arab countries have reached a ‘very significant’ consensus after the recent war in Lebanon that there must be a new start with fresh ideas to the Middle East peace process, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said Thursday." The report added further that "Washington is increasingly adopting the view that peace between Palestinians and Israelis will help its other interests in the region, including fighting terrorism." This astounding revelation seems to have come quite a bit too late!
The stark reality is that the Palestinians — abandoned by the Arab-Islamic world and the international community alike — have been putting up a brave fight against overwhelming odds. Given the long- accustomed passivity of the Muslim countries, Israel has no reason to engage in a meaningful peace dialogue with the Palestinian Authority. The only realistic possibility of this happening lies in persuading the U.S. and E.U. to pressure Israel into starting talks with the democratically elected Hamas government, led by Prime Minister Ismail Haniye. As long as the Western "axis of evil" on Middle East affairs – the Jewish Lobby, the Neo-cons and the conservative Christian right (especially the "end times" people) — rule U.S. foreign policy, the only thing Arabs can talk about is a "strong consensus."
There is something breathtakingly arrogant about Israel (with the continual help of the pro-Zionist media) wanting so single-mindedly to lay waste to Gaza, destroy its infrastructure, and kill and maim hundreds of innocent civilians with its bombs, bullets, tanks, and lie-filled propaganda. In another seven months, the occupation will be 40 years old. Israel today is the only so called democratic country in the world that continues to rule over the land of another people. Enough is enough. Let’s make Bush and Olmert keep their word. Palestinians need to know one thing and one thing only — when the Jewish State is ending its illegal occupation of their lands.