One has to pity this man, Bush.
When he was elected, almost by accident, he was a local politician without any international experience. He would have been hard put to locate half the world’s states on the map.
Since then he has been sleepwalking around the world, pushed hither and thither, sometimes listening to one of his handlers, sometimes to the other. He moves in circles, zigzags, forwards and backwards.
He tells Sharon to withdraw immediately – “I repeat, immediately!” – and when Sharon laughs in his face he declares that Sharon is a Man of Peace. He calls for an international conference and kills it before it is born. He fantasizes about the “vision” of a Palestinian state and humiliates the leader of the Palestinians every day. He brings himself and his office into disrepute.
What’s happening here?
Well, Bush is torn between two mighty forces that are pulling him in opposite directions.
On the one side, there is the domestic political pressure. The Jewish lobby is, of course, one of the strongest in the United States. The Jewish community is highly organized on rigid, authoritarian lines. Its electoral and financial power casts a long shadow over both houses of the Congress. Hundreds of Senators and Congressmen were elected with the help of Jewish contributions. Resistance to the directives of the Jewish lobby is political suicide. If AIPAC were to table a resolution abolishing the Ten Commandments, 80 Senators and 300 Congressmen would sign it at once. This lobby frightens the media, too, and assures their adherence to Israel.
But nowadays, even the power of this mighty lobby does not match the influence of the Christian fundamentalist lobby, dominated by the evangelist preachers. It puts the fear of God into the leaders of the Republican Party. George Bush Jr. remembers well that his father was forsaken by this lobby, when he failed to obey it.
This fanatical religious lobby appears to be extremely pro-Zionist. “Appears”, because there is a darker side to it. According to its theological beliefs, the Jews must congregate in Palestine and establish a Jewish state on all its territory, so as to make the Second Coming of Jesus Christ possible. The evangelists don’t like to dwell openly on what’s comes next: before the Coming, the Jews must convert to Christianity. Those who don’t will perish in a gigantic holocaust in the battle of Armageddon. This is basically an anti-Semitic teaching, but who cares, as long as they support Israel.
The combined might of the two lobbies is being brought to bear on Bush every time he tends in the direction of the Arabs. There other powerful factors are at work: the Arab governments and the Arab oil. The kings, presidents, Emirs and Sheikhs are subservient to the United States, but they are afraid that the suffering of the Palestinians will push their people into rebellion. They infect the Bush family with their fears. The Bushes, of course, are heavily involved with oil.
In Washington, as in Jerusalem, all problems are translated into personal struggles. The pro-Sharon faction is headed by the extremist Secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld, and his even more extreme deputy, Wolfowitz. They have Vice President Cheney on their side, and also, so it seems, the National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, whose legs aroused the vocal admiration of Sharon. Opposing them, almost alone, is the Secretary of State, Powell, supported by the experts of his department. Every time Rumsfeld and Co. convince Bush that he has to satisfy the Jewish-Christian lobby in order to win elections, along comes Powell and convinces him at the last moment that the national interests of the United States demand the opposite.
This week Bush received Mubarak. Sharon at once invited himself to the Oval Office, obviously believing that Bush is so weak-minded that he is always influenced by the last person he has listened to.
That is the struggle that meets the eye. Underneath, perhaps, a more profound struggle lies hidden. My friend Afif Safieh, the PLO delegate in London, believes that two souls have dwelt in the American nation from birth.
The one is that of the original settlers, the destroyers of the Native Americans, the slavers, a soul that adores brute force and cherishes the myth of the Wild West, that supports tyrants around the world. This soul identifies itself automatically with the Zionist settlers and the expulsion of the Arabs. Sharon is their man.
The other one is the soul of Thomas Jefferson (in spite of the fact that he was a slave-owner, too, of course) and the framers of the constitution; of Lincoln, the emancipator of the slaves; of Wilson, whose 14 Points proclaimed the right of self-determination; of Roosevelt, who helped to save the world from Hitler; an idealist, liberal and freedom-loving soul. This one tends nowadays towards the Palestinians.
The first soul occupies Bush’s heart, the other one knocks on the doors of his mind. It will be interesting to see which one wins.
[The author has closely followed the career of Sharon for four decades. Over the years, he has written three extensive biographical essays about him, two (1973, 1981) with his cooperation.]