- Even in the annals of Middle East "peace" proposals,
the speech delivered by George W. Bush on the White House lawn June 24
stands out for its cynicism.
- Speaking as Israeli tanks and infantry rampaged through
every major city and town on the West Bank, killing innocent civilians
and subjecting hundreds of thousands to round-the-clock curfews, the US
president lectured the Palestinian people on the need for "democratic"
self-reform while demanding the removal of their elected president, Yasser
- The Bush plan offers nothing to the Palestinians and
advances not a single new proposal for settling the protracted and bloody
conflict. It does, however, give a green light to the Israeli state to
continue its policy of reoccupying the territories nominally placed under
the control of the Palestinian Authority and to physically annihilate this
entity's leaders as well as its security forces.
- The line advanced by the US administration represents
a radical shift in relation to what is known as the Palestinian question.
World diplomacy has long seen the core of this problem as how to accommodate
the rights of a people turned into refugees, repeatedly driven off their
land, from the creation of Israel in 1948 to the occupation of the West
Bank and Gaza in 1967 and the subsequent wave of Zionist settlements in
the occupied territories.
- Bush sought to recast the problem by portraying the Palestinians
as a "terrorist" people and its leadership, the Palestine Liberation
Organization, long recognized as a legitimate bourgeois nationalist movement,
as a criminal organization.
- The attempt to outlaw Arafat and other Palestinian officials
represents the codification of a policy that Washington has pursued for
over a year, sanctioning the Israeli assassination of selected leaders
seen as hostile to Israeli and US interests.
- Israeli ruling circles reacted to the speech by saying
it could have been written by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon himself and represented
a complete victory for his policy. Israel's ruling party, Likud, said the
speech would be remembered as "the end of the Arafat era."
- Even among Israel's staunchest defenders, however, there
were concerns that Bush's plan failed to place a single demand on the Israeli
regime. "Mr. Bush seemed to be telling Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
that he is free to reoccupy the entire West Bank until a new, democratic
Palestine emerges," the New York Times editorialized. "How the
Palestinians can be expected to carry out elections or reform themselves
while in a total lockdown by the Israeli military remains something of
- Nor did any serious observer see any likelihood that
the plan would have the slightest effect in halting the wave of suicide
bombings in Israel, much less the crushing repression of the Israeli military
in the occupied territories.
- Neither Bush nor Sharon has any interest in Palestinian
"reform" or "democracy." Their policy is one of naked
force aimed at destroying whatever institutions and infrastructure have
been created in the occupied territories since the 1993 Oslo accords between
Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization and the subsequent creation
of the Palestinian Authority.
- The American president had not a word of criticism for
the Sharon government, warning instead that any attempt by the Palestinians
to resist occupation would be futile: "Israel will continue to defend
herself, and the situation of the Palestinian people will grow more and
- His preposterous comments stood reality on its head.
The root of the present conflict, according to Bush, is nothing more than
terrorism and the failure of the Palestinian leadership to fight it.
- "Today the Palestinian people live in economic stagnation
made worse by official corruption," he declared. Why? According to
Bush, poverty and oppression are merely the byproduct of the perfidy of
the Palestinian Authority-which has exercised unsteady control over the
area for barely seven years-and its failure to embrace a "market economy."
The repeated mass expulsions of Palestinians from their land, the seizure
of large swathes of territory for Zionist settlements in Gaza and the West
Bank, and the continuous disruption of economic life by decades of military
occupation are beside the point.
- Bush insisted that peace could come only through "a
break with the past," which he spelled out as a purge of the entire
leadership of the Palestinian Authority, including Arafat, and the installation
of new leaders "not compromised by terror."
- No such "break," however, was demanded of Israel,
whose prime minister is implicated in multiple war crimes. Indeed, Bush
delivered his speech on the eve of court proceedings in Brussels to determine
whether Sharon can be tried there for crimes against humanity stemming
from his role 20 years ago in organizing the massacre of hundreds of unarmed
Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon.
- What would a Palestinian state modeled on the Bush plan
look like, were it ever allowed to come into being? One can say with certainty
that its president would be a puppet of Washington, in all likelihood a
longtime "asset" of the Central Intelligence Agency within the
Palestinian movement. Its economy would be subordinated to US and Israeli
interests and run directly by the International Monetary Fund. Its security
forces would be led by the CIA and the Israeli secret police, Mossad, directed
at suppressing any elements opposing the US-backed regime.
- With Zionist settlements maintained, the territory of
this pseudo-state would remain divided into a patchwork of unviable units,
keeping intact the Israeli roadblocks, checkpoints and patrols that turn
life into a daily ordeal and humiliation for Palestinians.
- In short, a "provisional" Palestinian state
would resemble nothing so much as the bantustans created by the apartheid
regime in South Africa as a means of maintaining the black population under
conditions of abject misery and repression.
- According to press accounts, the final form of the US
president's speech emerged from a sharp debate in the Bush administration
in which the most right-wing, pro-Israeli elements, led by Vice President
Richard Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, prevailed.
- As a congressman in the 1980s, Cheney was one of the
staunchest US defenders of apartheid in South Africa, voting repeatedly
not only for continued US economic ties to the white racist regime, but
against a resolution urging the release of Nelson Mandela from over two
decades of imprisonment and negotiations between Pretoria and the African
- To this day, Cheney defends his vote on the grounds that
the ANC was "terrorist." His views have not changed and are representative
of a US ruling elite prepared to relegate the bulk of humanity in the oppressed
countries to dictatorship and misery.
- Bush, who became president through massive fraud, exhorted
the Palestinians to "build a practicing democracy based on tolerance
and liberty" and pledged US aid in organizing "fair" elections.
- What was clear from his Monday speech, however, was that
the US would reserve to itself the right to decide who would be a legitimate
leader and who would not. This is as true in Palestine as it is in Afghanistan.
There is no place in the Pax Americana envisioned by the Bush administration
for even formal self-determination. Washington will decide, by military
might if necessary.
- This conception-shared by the Bush administration and
the Sharon regime-that force will solve the intractable historical problems
of the Middle East, can lead only to a social catastrophe.