When Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon came to Washington in June to meet President Bush, it was his second visit to the White House in less than six months. Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat has yet to meet with Bush; nor is he likely to do so. For all intents and purposes, Arafat has been effectively isolated as a credible party to the peace talks.
The extradition of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague could be seen as a triumph for the worldwide movement for human rights. Never before has a sitting head of state been indicted for war crimes–nor been subsequently put to trial before an international tribunal.
This past eight months of bloodletting between Israelis and Palestinians is no more than an additional, exhausting chapter in a decades old conflict that seems today more polarized than ever. When Israel invaded the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem in 1967, the occupation of Palestine was born. With this birth came a second Palestinian Diaspora (the first was in 1948 when Israel was established) and the reality that an entire population–1.2 million Palestinians–would become totally controlled by the Israeli military. Over three decades later, no one expected to see the occupation enduring, or to see Palestinians still able to resist.
Walls; Electric Fences; Eliminations; Dogs; Closure; Collective Punishment; Tanks; Assault Helicopters; F-16s; Reciprocity; Retaliation; War. Welcome to the new Israeli lexicon concerning the Palestinians–the “new speak” of the post-Oslo period. And as with the Orwellian “new speak,” there is no longer any real discussion of issues and options, no plurality of opinions among the Israeli public, let alone the political leadership.
When a country violates fundamental principles of international law and when the UN Security Council demands that it cease its illegal behavior, one might expect that the world body would impose sanctions or other measures to foster compliance. This has been the case with Iraq, Libya, and other international outlaws in recent years.
Current U.S.-UN policy regarding Iraq has failed and has largely lost credibility. It is widely viewed internationally as reflecting U.S. (and, to a lesser degree, British) insistence on maintaining a punitive sanctions-based approach regardless of the humanitarian impact and it is increasingly regarded as having failed to bring about either democratic changes in Iraq or security for the Persian Gulf region. Numerous countries are challenging, if not directly violating, the sanctions regime, and international support has largely eroded.
In today’s complicated Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the political assumption that a Palestinian State is part and parcel of any future peace agreement is now a common realization that the U.S. and Israel have finally come to terms with. The U.S. administration, the Israeli press, and even the hawkish Israeli government, now openly make public statements to this regard. I do not question the fact that a Palestinian State is on the horizon, but I have serious doubts that the geographic location of this State is the same between the world’s conviction and that of the Israeli government led by Prime Minster Ariel Sharon.
The Jerusalem Post website reported, “IAF [Israeli Air Force] F-16 warplanes may have dropped munitions as large as 250 kilograms on their targets” (5/18/2001). Among these targets were a Ministry building, police stations, a TV station, and a prison–all in civilian neighborhoods in several Palestinian cities under Israeli military occupation for the past 34 years. The warped justification for Israel’s latest war crime is that it is a response to yet another Palestinian suicide bomber, who hours earlier took the lives of seven Israeli citizens in a shopping center in the Israeli City of Natanya.
The report on the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict by the commission led by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell is a failed effort–not for what it includes but for what it does not include.
The quick conviction on Monday in a political court of Dr. Saad El-Din Ibrahim and 27 associates is a serious blow against Egypt’s burgeoning pro-democracy movement. It also raises serious questions about continued U.S. military and economic aid to the increasingly authoritarian regime of Hosni Mubarak.