Bush Hands Keys To Sharon -
Backs His West Bank Policy

By Sean McBride
The situation is probably more disturbing than this: Bush has handed the keys of the American government over to Israel not to win American Jewish voters but because he is an ideological extremist whose mind (what little there is of it) has been thoroughly indoctrinated by Christian Zionism. Two main principles of Christian Zionism are:
1. God has commanded Christians to do whatever the Israeli government asks of them, no matter how contrary those requests may be to the American interest.
2. Armageddon is a good thing, and should be made to happen as soon as possible.
Bush reminds one very much of those Christian Zionists who are regular inhabitants of Free Republic. He's not even as bright as most of those, and yet he is trying to run the American government and American foreign policy. The situation is beyond alarming, and yet the American establishment media are still failing to communicate the true gravity of the crisis.
The reason is simple: many powerful people in the big media, who hold Christian Zionism in contempt, are more than willing to use someone they consider to be a demented halfwit to attack and crush Israel's neighbors with American military power.
During the last decade or two a coalition forged in hell emerged to take over the Republican Party: southern white Protestant fundamentalist males (Christian Zionists) and northern Jewish militant Zionist males (neoconservatives). These events were encouraged and facilitated by neoliberals in the Democratic Party and the major media, whose Zionism is fully as fervent as that of the Christian Zionists and neocons. The alliance of these factions has brought us to our current state of affairs in Iraq.
The Bush administration is well down the path of igniting a world war in the Middle East, with the covert backing of many Democrats and liberals. Lawrence Kaplan, a leading neoliberal, recently remarked that the United States should be willing to accept the deaths of 30,000 young Americans to fulfill the war aims of the neocon/neolib axis in Iraq.
"better_off_said" wrote:
For those of you who want cut to the chase, here's what Bush's latest U-Turn it's all about, gaining the votes he stood to lose from the Christian Zionists, at the expense of our safety and the stability of the world:
"The move also has potential electoral benefits for Bush, who has courted Jewish voters in the battleground state of Florida and elsewhere. It also plays well with Christian conservatives, who see support for Israel as part of a religious imperative."
As far as I'm concerned, this latest stunt makes him the most dangerous man in Washington. _____
In A Shift, Bush Backs Sharon On West Bank
By Maura Reynolds and Mary Curtius
LA Times Staff Writers
WASHINGTON - President Bush made a fundamental shift in Middle > East strategy Wednesday, recognizing long-standing Israeli claims to major settlements in the West Bank as part of an agreement under which Israel would withdraw from the Gaza Strip and portions of the West Bank.
Bush also adopted the Israeli position on the resettlement of Palestinian refugees, saying they should find homes in a future Palestinian state and should not expect to return to their former homes in Israel. In doing so, Bush bypassed negotiating steps envisioned in a U.S.-backed peace process.
Bush's pronouncement, which drew an immediate angry reaction from Palestinian leaders, moves U.S. policy into closer alignment with Israel, which has in effect extended its borders by building scores of settlements on land seized from Arabs in the 1967 Middle East War.
The announcement, made in an exchange of letters at a White House summit with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, boosted the Israeli leader's prospects for winning support at home for his Gaza disengagement plan, which would lead to the evacuation of about 7,500 Jewish settlers now guarded by Israeli troops.
But it also drew criticism from United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who said through a spokesman that a Mideast peace plan "should be determined in negotiations between the parties, based on relevant Security Council resolutions."
It was not immediately clear how the announcement would affect Bush's relationship with Arab leaders, whose support he had sought to help stabilize Iraq.
Previously, the position of the U.S., which had been the broker of Mideast peace negotiations, had been that all Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories were an impediment to peace. The United States has also said neither side should take action outside negotiations under the U.S.-backed peace plan known as the "road map."
Administration officials said the new stance was designed to breathe life into the peace process by encouraging - critics might say "provoking" - Arab states into putting more pressure on Palestinian extremist groups to end suicide bombing attacks and for Palestinian Authority leaders to engage in negotiations that would lead to a Palestinian state.
At the White House ceremony with Sharon, Bush portrayed his endorsement of Israel's plan to unilaterally leave Gaza as part of an effort to reinvigorate the peace initiative, which in effect has been moribund for months.
"These are historic and courageous actions" by Sharon, Bush said. "If all parties choose to embrace this moment, they can open the door to progress and put an end to one of the world's longest-running conflicts."
In the exchange of letters with Sharon, Bush said he was not trying to influence the eventual outlines of a negotiated settlement between the two sides.
"The United States will not prejudice the outcome of final status negotiations. That matter is for the parties," Bush said. "But the realities on the ground and in the region have changed greatly over the last several decades, and any final settlement must take into account those realities."
Bush, in his letter, also said that "in light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion."
Bush, who has long complained that the peace process has been undermined by Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, appealed to Arab countries to do their part to "build democratic Palestinian institutions." Bush met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Monday and will play host to King Abdullah II of Jordan next week.
"The Palestinian people must insist on change and on a leadership that is committed to reform and progress and peace," Bush said.
Bush's assurances did little to assuage Palestinians, who immediately denounced the president's action as in effect endorsing Israeli appropriation of West Bank land and bypassing the peace process.
"We as Palestinians reject that, we cannot accept that, we reject it and we refuse it," Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Korei said in a hastily convened news conference in his West Bank hometown, Abu Dis.
"If Israel wants to make peace, it must talk to the Palestinian leadership," said Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian Cabinet minister and veteran negotiator.
Egyptian leader Mubarak, speaking at Rice University in Houston on Wednesday night, agreed that unilateral action would create problems. "I think such an initiative, from my point of view, should be discussed with the Palestinians," he said.
"Withdrawal from Gaza first of all needs good preparation from the Palestinian side to maintain security and stability. They have to prepare the police force, the equipment and everything," he said. He did not address the issue of the West Bank settlements. > Sharon has been moving toward a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in an effort to stem violence against Israel. His right-wing Likud Party will hold a referendum May 2 on whether to endorse the withdrawal plan, and Bush's backing is expected to increase support for Sharon within his party.
The issue has been a tricky one for Sharon, a godfather of the Jewish settlement movement, which has sought to make occupied Palestinian territories part of Israel.
"My plan will create a new and better reality for the State of Israel," Sharon said in his White House remarks. "And it also has the potential to create the right conditions to resume negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians."
The move also has potential electoral benefits for Bush, who has courted Jewish voters in the battleground state of Florida and elsewhere. It also plays well with Christian conservatives, who see support for Israel as part of a religious imperative.
Last summer, Bush traveled through the Mideast to promote the U.S.- backed peace plan, and in recent months he has pushed his Greater Middle East Initiative - which promotes democratization of Arab countries as part of a larger solution not only for the Israeli- Palestinian conflict but also for postwar Iraq.
But until Wednesday, Bush administration officials had repeatedly warned Israel not to create "facts on the ground" that would make peace negotiations with the Palestinians more difficult. Those "facts" were widely interpreted to mean Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories as well as Israel's barrier, which many Palestinians fear will become a de facto border.
Bush stated unequivocally Wednesday his belief that "facts on the ground" mean that Israel should not be expected to retreat to its pre- 1967 borders.
A senior administration official said the Israeli moves would not scuttle the peace plan, insisting instead that they were designed to "jump-start" the peace process, which was to lead to an independent Palestinian state.
"The news here is that the Israeli government, headed by Ariel Sharon, has decided to pull out of Gaza and to abandon settlements - not only on Gaza, but also on the West Bank," the official said. "That is an opportunity for us now to move the Palestinians, because what he's doing is opening the door for a pathway to a Palestinian state. That is big news."
He added that the change in policy had been discussed in at least two recent meetings with Palestinian officials, so it should not have come as a surprise.
But Rashid Khalidi, a Middle East scholar at Columbia University, said that the United States has always insisted that a solution to the conflict lies in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and that Bush "is trampling all over decades of American policy."
Khalidi said the Bush-Sharon agreement reflected the new, post-Iraq war reality of a Middle East where "the Americans and the Israelis can tell everybody what they have to do."
Two of the United States' most experienced Middle East peace negotiators agreed that Bush's new stance could result in a revival of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Sharon "is doing something that no Israeli prime minister has been prepared to do before - evacuate settlements without anything from the Palestinians in return," said Dennis Ross, director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Ross was the U.S. representative to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations for Presidents George H.W. Bush and Clinton.
What the exchange of letters underscores, Ross said, "is the sense of exclusion" of the Palestinians from the process. Because Sharon is taking the politically risky step of evacuating settlements with no agreement from the Palestinians, Ross said, "he needed some assurances from us."
"The Palestinians are going to have to get over it," Ross said. "They can rant and rave but the reality is still the same: Israel will get out of Gaza. The Palestinians will have no excuse" to fail to > crack down on terrorism once Israel withdraws.
In a telephone interview from Jerusalem, Martin S. Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, said that questions about the West Bank settlements and the Palestinian refugees were in effect conceded by President Clinton when the administration was attempting to broker a peace agreement in 2000.
"But then, it was in the context of an ongoing negotiation and also had reference to territorial compensation" for the Palestinians, said Indyk, now director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "Bush has established his own parameters now, and it is not in the context of negotiations."
Still, Indyk said, "if Sharon is helped to make a full withdrawal from Gaza, he will have done something which no previous Israeli prime minister has done and in the process he will have set precedents - for the full evacuation of Israeli settlements and for full withdrawal - and that is actually far more important than what the president said today."
Both Indyk and Ross dismissed the notion that a unilateral withdrawal was in keeping with the U.S.-backed peace plan.
"Ironically, it is likely to lead to a resurrection of the road map in the sense that the president made clear that he wants European, U.N., Egyptian, Arab support for this," Indyk said.
In a briefing for Israeli reporters, a senior official traveling with Sharon hailed the agreement, saying it would improve his nation's security. The official, who spoke on condition that he not be named, said that once Israel withdrew from Gaza, it would respond harshly to any terrorist attacks from the Palestinian-controlled territory.
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