President Bush stated in his news conference on thursday that Israel has no better friend than the United States and he favors a Palestinian State as long as the Palestinians show respect for Israel. What he failed to mention is his speech was his definition of respect.
Does he mean for the Palestinians to welcome with open arms the Israeli bulldoziers that come to demolish Palestinian homes? Amnesty International’s latest annual report on Israel and the Occupied Territories states that “Since 1987 the Israeli authorities have demolished at least 2,650 Palestinian homes in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. As a result 16,700 Palestinians (including 7,300 children ) have lost their homes.”
Does President Bush’s definition of respect mean that Palestinians should cheerfully hand over their property deeds to the Israelis when their land is illegally confiscated in order to build more Jewish settlements?
Does President Bush’s definition of respect mean that Palestinians should watch in glee the onslaught of innocent Palestinian men, women, and children by Israeli troops using F-16 and Apache helicopters and other American-made weapons? During the past year the Israelis have killed over 700 Palestinians, most of them under the age of 18.
Does President’s Bush’s definition of respect mean that Palestinians should commend and applaud the Israeli assassins who have killed over 60 Palestinian officials within the past year? Is this what President Bush describes as respect?
When Palestinians, trying to defend their lives and property, retaliate against Israeli aggression, terrorism, and human rights violations, they are labeled murderers and accused of being lawless terrorists. If defending yourself against brutal Israeli aggression is considered by President Bush as showing no respect, then there will never be a lasting peace, let alone a Palestinian state. President Bush must break the 50-year storm of paranoia swirling about Israel that has locked American policy makers into granting Israel the right to be an exception to almost every rule.
Israel is one of the wealthiest nations in the world yet receives close to one-fourth of all U.S. foreign aid, totaling about $5 billion a year. We let Israel get away with everything from murder and torture to violating international laws to betraying our national security by selling U.S. military secrets to third world nations. In short, we let Israel act as the spoiled child of the Middle East whose behavior only gets worse because we are too afraid to punish her. We are the only nation in the world that gives Israel everything it demands unconditionally while at the same time ignoring how Israel uses U.S. tax money to support oppression and to break international law.
If it’s respect for Israel that President Bush demands from the Palestinians then there may never be a Palestinian State. Respect is something earned, not something demanded. As long as Israel continues to violate human rights and international law while the U.S. continues its blind-eye, green-light policy, then there will never be respect, let alone peace in the Middle East.
James J. David is a retired Brigadier General, and a graduate of the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College, and the National Security Course, National Defense University, Washington DC. He served nearly 3 years of Army active duty in and around the Middle East from 1967-1969.