The bulldozing prime minister of Israel is in Washington, D.C. for the fifth time since he was elected Israel’s prime minister a little over a year age. We do not know if he is trying to set a record by scoring the most frequent visits to the White House in the shortest span of time. But if that is his primary deflection from his bulldozer presence, he is doing a very good job. Bulldozers are not known for their speed. And president Bush is obliging his guest in the best tradition of official America kowtowing to the latest Zionist prime minister in town.
So what is Ariel Sharon up to now? Why has he made haste and come to Washington immediately after he ordered his military to level certain Palestinian towns and cities in the West Bank? What is itching Mr. Sharon so much that he has to see president Bush and brief him on the progress of his Israeli accomplishments? The Church of the Nativity is still under an Israeli military siege for over a month, and Sharon has the guts to come and unfold his ideas to the president of the United States while the birthplace of Jesus is surrounded by those who may do nasty things to that revered area. Already the Israeli forces have forced the cancellation of Christian Eastern Orthodox religious services commemorating the second holiest holiday in the Christian calendar: Easter. Prime minister Sharon is bulldozing anyone’s reverence for such holidays away, and who dare criticize Israel for this offense? Sharon is in town to talk the real stuff. And so what is on his mind?
We do not claim to know what Sharon, the butcher of Sabra and Shatilla, will tell president Bush. Far from it, Sharon is nowhere within our reach to try to solicit some of his main talking points. And even if we could gain close proximity to him he may shift gears and bulldoze us away. So let us try to figure out what this war-criminal-cum prime minister is up to.
We all know that there is a Palestinian Intifadah. This Intifadah began when Sharon himself in the presence of hundreds of Israeli soldiers provocatively set foot on al-Haram al-Shareef (the Temple Mount) parading an Israeli intent and purpose for occupying this first Qiblah of the Muslims. This Palestinian Intifadah is nearly 20 months old. Sharon and his right wing colleagues referred to their ideological chauvinism to quell the Palestinian expression of opposition to Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Consequently, the Intifadah began to gain momentum. Palestinians were resisting with daring raids of military operations that have claimed in Sharon’s eyes a disproportionate number of Israeli casualties compared to Palestinian casualties. Israel has been conditioned to fight a war in which the ratio of casualties is 100: 1 (for every Israeli killed there should be at least one hundred Palestinians killed). But the new mathematics of the Intifadah has scaled back the Israelis’ military performance. The new ratio is something like 4 to 1 (four Palestinians are killed corresponding to each Israeli killed).
The Arab masses in an unforeseen turn of events have become spectators to the carnage and mass-killings committed by the Israeli war forces against innocent and civilian Palestinians in cities and refugee camps and almost everywhere else. The demonstrations that have erupted from the streets of “pro-American” Morocco to “pro-American Kuwait” passing through the capital cities of “pro-American Egypt and Jordan” are talking points for Mr. Sharon when he sits down with Mr. Bush. We can almost hear Sharon lecture Mr. Bush on how important it has become for the United States to realize that there is no neutral party in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Sharon can quote Bush on this one: “You are either with us or against us.”
Even before the two met in the Oval Office, the White House spokesman Ari Fleischer was setting the tone saying that Bush was stressing “America’s unflagging support for Israel.” (Bush, Sharon Set to Meet in D.C., Associated Press, May 7, 2002)
Sharon can go right into the White House with such encouraging statements and need not do any “warm-up verbal exercise” with president Bush. The two realize that the Palestinian issue has to be solved quickly. Sharon wants to get the Palestinian “monkey off his back,” while Bush wants the Palestinian “genie” back in the bottle lest his whole project of war on terrorism be defeated by an” Arab monkey wrench.”
With these considerations we venture to say that Sharon will coach Bush into an Israeli support position via some type of peace conference. This conference is meant to bring ‘Arafat under combined “moral and financial” pressure to finally make up his mind and unleash a newly constituted Palestinian security or armed forces (Palestinians may actually have an army of their own) but for the sole purpose of taking on and killing off Palestinian Islamic resistance; i.e., Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and if the Aqsa Brigades of Fatah or the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) decide along with any other Palestinian patriots to stand against this reborn Palestinian Authority then they too will be treated like Hamas and Jihad.
There is no doubt a convergence of concerns between Sharon the superior and Bush the inferior. Sharon and Bush as much as they would want to deny it know that there is no one left in the Palestinian milieu who is as pivotal as ‘Arafat is. Sharon, for reasons well known to any seasoned observer wants a grand peace conference that will (in a surreptitious manner) anoint chairman ‘Arafat as the Palestinian who combines both Sa’d Haddad and Antoinne Lahad, two Israeli proxies who were doing the dirty work of trying to defend Israel from the Islamic resistance in Lebanon. Bush, though, for reasons pertaining to his international war on terrorism was ‘Arafat more in the image of the Afghani installed president Mr. Hamid Karzai. At this point ‘Arafat may be willing to put on any costume and play any role as long as he has the support of Israel, the US, the Europeans, the United Nations, and the governments in Arab countries, all of whom are expected to attend the projected “peace conference.”
What Does the United States Want?
Obviously US interests, as much as the Israelis may be displeased by it, are not always identical to Israeli interests. The United States has economic, business, and strategic interests in both the Arab and Islamic worlds. Anti-Americanism is growing by leaps and bounds throughout Asia and Africa due to blind and unconditional American support for Israeli policies; policies now that are viewed by a growing audience of Arabs and Muslims on satellite TV, and they do not look good. American supported Israeli policies are translating into rage and wrath throughout urban and rural parts of Arab and Muslim countries.
Besides all this percolating of anger against and condemnation of the US, the Arab and Muslim masses are beginning to increase their pressure through demonstrations and acts of civil disobedience against erstwhile American allies, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the Persian Gulf States… These are American allies and not Israeli allies… and we can imagine how difficult it may be for Messrs Bush and Sharon to draw lines and reach conclusions on these types of issues.
This American position and definition of interests has to convince Zionist Sharon of the American priority of a change of government in Iraq. And this may not be very difficult to do. Actually, this may be the glue that binds Sharon and Bush together. The scenario is unraveling with amazing clarity. The Israelis have a demographic problem: the Palestinians. If the Palestinians were to lay down their arms and just have babies for the coming 15 years, they would outnumber the Israelis and the sheer numbers of Palestinians will secure in a strictly democratic society that Palestine is triumphant and Israel has gone under, not under the sea but under the high procreation rate of Palestinian families with 8-10 children per family as compared to 2-3 children per Israeli family. This fact is ticking away like a nuclear device in the heads of racist Zionists who cannot tolerate the approach of such a day. Sharon would agree that Palestinians have to leave; and in Sharon’s mind there cannot be any other solution to this Middle East conflict. Sharon can open two doors for the Palestinians: the door of death or the door over the river Jordan. This is what he refers to as the transfer policy. Enter Bush. “Well, why not have the Palestinians move into Iraq? Or into a Jordan that is confederated with Iraq on American terms?” By golly, we have a deal!
“Sharon’s plan is to drive two million Palestinians across the Jordan using the pretext of a US attack on Iraq or a terrorist strike in Israel. This could trigger a vast mobilization to clear the occupied territories of their two million Arabs. In September 1970…King Hussein of Jordan attacked the Palestinians in his kingdom, killing perhaps 5,000 to 10,000. Sharon serving as commanding officer, southern front, argued that Israel’s assistance to the king was a mistake; instead it should have tried to topple the Hashemite regime. Sharon has often said since that Jordan, which, according to him, has a Palestinian majority even now, is the Palestinian state, and thus a suitable destination for Palestinians to be kicked out of his Greater Israel… Sharon himself told Secretary of State Colin Powell that nothing happening in Israel should delay a US attack on Iraq. Other pretexts could include an uprising in Jordan, followed by the collapse of King ‘Abdullah’s regime or a major terrorist outrage inside Israel. (Sharon’s Final Solution, Alexander Cockburn, May 5, 2002)
The Saudi Trip-Wire
We are not sure if Messrs Bush and Sharon see eye to eye on the issue of Saudi Arabia. From all that we know, the Saudi Arabian government has been supportive of US policies more than any government in the Middle East. Shucks! America virtually built that Kingdom from tents to high-rises and from camels to SUV’s. It will not be so easy to untangle Saudi Arabia from the United States. Besides, Saudi Arabia is oil country and president Bush is an oil man. Without stretching it too much, without Saudi Arabia the US would not have had Karzai (at least as easy as he came). Without Saudi Arabia, the regional super-power, the Persian Gulf States may have wondered off course as far as American and Western interests are concerned, and without Saudi Arabia the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) would have been unpredictable, unreliable, and even uncontrollable.
But Sharon is coming to Washington and speaking a new diplomatic language, a language not easily deciphered by president Bush. Sharon and the Israeli crowd are saying that Saudi Arabia is financing terror against Israel. Press revelations at the Israeli embassy in Washington on May 6, 2002 allege that the Saudi government has been funneling large sums of money to Palestinian “terrorists.”
“The Saudi government gave $135 million in the past 16 months to help the families of suicide bombers and fund other aspects of the anti-Israel uprising… [said Col. Miriam Eisin, an Israeli intelligence official.] The money goes to a list of 13 charities, and seven of them fund Hamas.”(The Washington Times, May 7, 2002)
These are serious allegations that are intended to cut the political umbilical cord between Riyadh and Washington. And these are not isolated statements. They are coached in a growing climate of Muslim bashing and Islamophobia sponsored and accentuated by the Zionist lobby and the “Israel can do no wrong” crowd.
“The Saudis have had some success in influencing Bush administration policy. After a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince ‘Abdullah in Crawford, Texas, in late April, Mr. Bush phoned Mr. Sharon three times to press him into accepting the compromise that ended the confinement of Mr. ‘Arafat in Ramallah last week.
Some of the documents released by Israel yesterday bore the letterhead of the “Saudi Arabian Committee for Support of the Al-Quds Intifadah,” headed by Saudi Interior Minister Naif Ibn Abed al-Aziz. That same committee recently collected $109.56 million in a telethon to back the Palestinians…
“Prince Bandar, in his statement, said Saudi Arabia “is committed to helping the 3 million Palestinians who are victimized by Israeli violence,” including “killings, displacements, imposition of starvation and siege.” (The Washington Times, May 7, 2002) We do not pretend to know what the outcome of this parting assessment of Saudi Arabia by both Tel Aviv and Washington. What we do know though is that rarely if ever has an Israeli prime minister come with commands and demands to the White House and has been turned down. And we have no reason to believe that this is going to be the first time. We also believe that even if president Bush and a couple of individuals in his inner circle are inclined to have a more rational approach to Saudi Arabia they will be trumped by the Israeli/Zionist throng who are ready to pack their political punch during the up and coming election season, and who are steaming with pro-Israeli positions, statements, and resolutions on Capital Hill. Bush must be aware of this Zionist locomotive that is willing to dwarf the bulldozer if Israeli survival is the issue. Money speaks, and when Jewish money speaks all American “elected” officials listen. And on another front the Zionist press went on the offensive because the Saudi royals who have invested hundreds of billions of dollars in Western financial interests have among their population those who are willing and able to poetically express themselves about the Intifadah and its heroes! The Bush-Sharon tip-toeing around Saudi Arabia will probably boil down to: should we (the US and Israel) deal with an ally we know (which is Bush’s line of defense) or a potential enemy we do not know (Sharon’s line of offense)?
It seems like the whole Sharonic maneuver is meant to discredit the Saudi government because it has come to realize that some type of pressure has to be exerted on all concerned to reach a peaceful accommodation. That is what Crown Prince ‘Abdullah’s peace plan is all about, that is why it was endorsed at the Arab summit in Beirut, and that is why Sharon and his government who do not believe in peace want to sabotage the Saudi effort via the United States.
What Do the Palestinians Want?
Whatever verbal volleys bounce back and forth between Sharon and Bush the facts on the ground speak louder than words. The Palestinians are locked in a fight for survival. The whole Palestinian political spectrum from the Islamic Resistance to the secular Palestinian Authority, from Palestinians with Israeli nominal citizenship to Palestinians living in foreign lands without any citizenship, all these Palestinians are asking for is a Palestinian State that will include absolutely all of the West Bank and Gaza, as well as Arab East Jerusalem. They all, in unison, want an immediate and final end of Israeli occupation. They want a viable state with all the institutions that are the political, economic, and social support system of this state.
Palestinians, of all shades and colors, want to put an end to Israeli security hegemonic policies and procedures. They are fed up with Israeli forays, intrusions, and daily assaults into their homes and villages in the name of “Israeli security.”
They gave ‘Arafat and the devil the benefit of the doubt. They acquiesced to the Madrid and Oslo peace process, only to be humiliated and dehumanized. Not only have the Israelis forced the Palestinians into a Diaspora, they also placed them in ghettos, slums, and Bantustans. Sharon may be trying to sell the American administration the idea that a Palestinian state may be established in Gaza. He no longer is willing to abide by UN resolutions, the Oslo Accords signed by his predecessor, and not even words of advice from Washington (if there is still someone around to whisper these words to a cantankerous bulldozer). He may promote this idea by suggesting that Gaza will be the launching area for a larger future Palestinian state that will eventually include some parts of the West Bank . Do not speak to Sharon about all the West Bank any longer.
“Israel’s foreign minister yesterday confirmed a report that prime minister Ariel Sharon wants to annex up to half of the West Bank.” (The Washington Times, Apr. 22, 2002)
If Sharon is trying to reoccupy the West Bank by convincing president Bush that the major cities in the West Bank should be under an “Israeli Security Umbrella” while the hamlets and villages may be turned over to a “disciplined” ‘Arafat, he is not contributing to solving the issue, he is just complicating it.
Sharon may be sneaking in on American officials, president Bush included, and trying to reverse close and personal American involvement there for over 10 years now. At one time there was a “confidence building” policy. But all that now is history, if Sharon has it his way. Sharon will exchange all that with bullets and bombs that will drive hate and revenge to unprecedented levels. And all the Palestinians do not want any of it.
Furthermore, the Palestinians do not want to listen to a Washington that echoes Tel Aviv. The Palestinians have had it with Israeli shenanigans calling for “access roads and highways” that slice through integral Palestinians lands and territories and makes it impossible to have an integrated Palestinian state.
If Sharon is trying to lay the foundations for a Gaza Bantustan in Washington he should know that even if Mr. Bush endorse such gimmicks it is too little, too late. Should Sharon sugar-coat the Gaza Bantustan offer by having the American taxpayer pour in money and raise the standard of living, and even activate civil aviation with people coming and going to and from Gaza, that still is not enough to move this whole issue in the right direction.
The Palestinians will not fall for European or Arab projects to absorb Palestinian refugees and settle them in acquired countries. Another Israeli trick/American device may be to lead the Palestinians to believe that peace is just around the corner. Well now! The Palestinians have just went down that avenue and found themselves no better off than when they set foot on this aimless course. Peace is more allusive than it has ever been.
Whichever way this discussion goes between Sharon and Bush there is no doubt that a planned and calculated cessation of hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians should be recognized as a strategic American priority. No policy coming from the West that targets the whole Muslim world is a sustainable policy, in much the same way that no policy coming from Muslim countries that target all nations in the West is a sustainable policy. The official Israeli political skewing of American interests carries with it a virtual clash of civilizations outcome and conclusion.
We think it may be too late in the game to advise American administrations that the Middle East conflict does not need a spineless superpower. President Bush and the Israeli crowd around him must exert fair and fearless influence on Israel. The Europeans have come to this conclusion, alas, belatedly.
“Exhortation, of course, is not enough. America must define a detailed peace settlement and push for it in the face of Israeli and Palestinian political opposition.
The United States must seek international support in putting political and financial pressure on both sides. Israel depends upon the United States for billions for dollars’ worth of military and economic aid each year. The Palestinian Authority is dependent on hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of American, European, and Arab aid and has no hope of ever building a viable national economy without even more. This aid could be used as leverage to push both sides to end the attacks and return to negotiations.”(The New York Times, March 22 2002)
The best case scenario from the discussions between Messrs Bush and Sharon is an independent American position that is able to differentiate between American and Israeli interests, and then come down hard on Sharon’s presumptions and opinions and spare the Middle East a new round of hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians, a probable war between Israel and a larger mass of Arabs, and conceivably a non-conventional warfare that will pit the Israelis and the Americans against the supporters of the Palestinian cause around the world, with all the strategic and economic ramifications that will accompany such a dreaded outcome.
The worst case scenario is that Sharon will sign-on the Americans to an adventure that will begin by displacing the Palestinians en masse then involving Iraq in a war, which will have the potential of spilling over into adjacent lands. This ominous unfolding of events along Israeli lines will certainly throw the whole area from the Philippines to Morocco into unpredictable circumstances and chain-reactions that will go beyond the immediate Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Word to the wise: don’t let Sharon bring down the Temple, and with it the United States, the Arab countries, and whatever norms of civilization we all share.
It is the destiny of George W. Bush, the current president of the United States, to talk some sense into Israeli minds. Sharon himself is not amenable to such advice.
This is the war that has to be won.
“At a cabinet meeting after most of the fighting was over, a Labor Party minister, Ran Cohen, asked Sharon to summarize the results of Operation Defensive Shield.
“This is not the time to summarize,” Sharon replied, according to participants in the meeting. “We are not yet at the end of the operation. We’re only changing methods. We didn’t withdraw completely. We are not surrendering. When they start again with terrorist attacks, we’ll go back in, if necessary to every place we were.”(The Washington Post, May 6, 2002)
The lingering question becomes: does Mr. Bush want to win a war for civilization, and if he does, he knows what has to be done. Or does he want to win the coming elections for the White House, and if he does he knows what to do?
Or could it be as Wesley Pruden of the Washington Times put it succinctly: “We have to believe George W’s scheme is not to make peace, he knows that is not possible, but to buy time, to allow the Arabs to re-inflate their flattened egos and the Israelis to catch their breath while the president proceeds with getting the Iraqi deliverance campaign back on track.
Dr. Ahmed Yousef is Director of United Association for Studies and Research (UASR) and Editor-in-Chief, Middle East Affairs Journal.