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Interesting article on the situation in Israel...


TRIBE Member
From CNN..

Time for the Arabs to talk tough to the US

According to well-placed sources in Washington, US President George W. Bush has decided to avoid a confrontation, or indeed any sort of a public quarrel, with Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The perception is growing in Europe and the Middle East that the United States has, in effect, abdicated its responsibility for peace and security in the Middle East, with potentially grave consequences for the region and for the United States itself.
The sources report that the presidential decision was taken for two main reasons. Washington does not believe Sharon will yield to US pressure and, therefore, that any attempt to make him change course would be ineffective. Secondly, Bush wants to avoid a bruising clash with Israel, which could be politically costly for the Republicans at the mid-term elections next November. It would appear, therefore, that the president has thought it best to let Sharon have his way.

Two pieces of public evidence support this analysis. The first is a statement by America’s UN Ambassador John Negroponte in the current Special Issue of Newsweek. “We don’t think pressure from us on Israel is what’s going to advance the cause of peace,” Negroponte declared. “It will make them less accommodating rather than more so.” Although the bankruptcy of this argument was amply demonstrated by 10 years of a failed peace process, it is now being given fresh currency.
The second piece of evidence is Secretary of State Colin Powell’s astonishing reaction to the bulldozing by the Israeli Army of 73 Palestinian homes in Rafah, on the night of Jan. 9-10, which threw some 700 Palestinians out into the cold and the rain. To the consternation of independent observers, Powell called Israel’s cruel action “defensive!”
Perhaps in a bid to soften the impact of the secretary’s remark, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher called Israel’s demolition of Palestinian houses “provocative,” although he preceded his statement by saying: “We understand the need for Israel to take steps to ensure its self-defense.”

Israel has long pursued a policy of illegal house demolitions, but this was the biggest operation of its kind since the start of the intifada 15 months ago. In contrast to Powell, an influential Israeli journalist, Zeev Schiff, the military correspondent of Haaretz, wrote that such collective punishments were “a shameful chapter in the history of the Israeli Army and of Israel.”
What has happened to Bush’s “vision?”
In the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, when America sought to rally Arab and Muslim opinion behind its “war on terror,” Bush spoke about an American “vision” of a Palestinian state. But the “vision” appears to have faded away following the US victory in Afghanistan.
American sources insist that the United States still favors the creation of a “viable” Palestinian state living at peace alongside Israel. In practice, however, there is no sign whatsoever of any attempt to implement this policy. Instead, the United States has lined up behind Sharon, the bitterest enemy of Palestinian self-determination.

Bowing to Sharon’s demands, the United States has concentrated its efforts on restoring “security” ­ for Israel, that is, not for the Palestinians. The Americans justify this approach by saying that a restoration of “security” would give them a lever with which to engage Israel in a more long-term political process.
This was the mandate of Powell’s special envoy, General Anthony Zinni, who, before leaving the area after a four-day visit last week, managed to arrange a meeting of a joint Israeli-Palestinian security committee ­ but with no lasting results on the ground.
The seizure by Israeli naval commandos on Jan. 3 of the Karine A, a ship carrying 50 tons of weapons allegedly from Iran for the Palestinian Authority, has allowed Sharon, in a stage-managed propaganda campaign, to demonize Arafat and the PA as the fountain-head of “international terrorism.” It has also brought US efforts, such as they were, to a standstill.

One implication of American passivity in the face of Sharon’s actions would seem to be that the United States accepts that the 1993 Oslo Accords are dead, and that the Israeli-Palestinian relationship is now one of war-fighting rather than of peacemaking. In particular, it means that the US has decided to turn a blind eye to Sharon’s attempt to inflict a total defeat on Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority.
Some observers go further, saying the US has swallowed Sharon’s contention that, once Arafat has been removed from the scene, adequate security arrangements in the West Bank and Gaza can be made with local Palestinian leaders ­ in effect “quislings” ­ which would leave the Israeli Army in overall control and allow Israeli settlements to remain and grow.

American and European diplomats in the Middle East are fully aware of Sharon’s strategy. According to reliable sources, they have reported to their respective governments that the Israeli prime minister has three principal aims:

- He will go to any length to avoid resuming peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. A certain level of violence suits him as it allows him to rule out any possibility of talks. His policy of targeted assassinations, house demolitions and closures is in fact intended to provoke a violent Palestinian response. As Zeev Schiff wrote in Haaretz on Jan. 4: “It is impossible to shake off the impression that the Sharon government is more fearful of the quiet that will follow a cessation of Palestinian violence than it is of the attacks perpetrated by the Palestinians.”

- Sharon is using every possible argument ­ and every scrap of intelligence ­ to persuade the US to extend its “war on terror” to a number of Arab states, particularly to Iraq and Syria, and to Hizbullah in Lebanon.

- He wants to sabotage the budding rapprochement between the United States and Iran. This is one reason the Israeli propaganda machine has made much of the allegation that the arms on board the Karine A were a gift from Iran to the Palestinian Authority.

In The New York Times recently, the columnist William Safire, one of Sharon’s principal cheerleaders in the United States, called Iran the “world arsenal of terror.” He denounced Arafat’s “coalition of terror” with Iran. The arms cargo on board the Karine A, he claimed, had exposed “Iran’s undeclared war on Israel.” The word “terror” or “terrorist” occurs no fewer than 11 times in his short article. Such slanted and abusive diatribes, which help shape American public opinion, are taken as serious journalism.
In the current issue of Jeune Afrique, dated Jan. 8-14, 2002, Chedli Klibi, a former Arab League secretary-general, argues that Sharon must be stopped before he pursues his dangerous regional fantasies. Klibi does not elaborate what these fantasies are, but observers attribute to Sharon the ambition to weaken and destabilize Israel’s Arab neighbors so as to ensure Israel’s supremacy, and extend its sphere of influence.
Klibi urges the Arabs to intervene vigorously with Washington.

They should remind President Bush of his country’s responsibility in allowing Israel to destroy the peace process. Judging from the angry public mood today in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the Gulf and much of North Africa ­ and from the tone of the press in the region ­ it would seem that Sharon has managed in less than a year to destroy the achievements of 20 years of peacemaking.
Few Arabs today believe that peace and normal relations are possible with a belligerent Israel determined to consolidate and expand its colonization of Arab territory. In view of the gravity of the situation, Arab leaders would be justified in calling on President Bush to restate publicly what his policy is regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict, and how he intends to implement it.
Alex D. from TRIBE on Utility Room