“Speaking of the Palestinians, they were dealt a lethal blow,” exulted a jubilant Ariel Sharon, “It will bring their dreams to an end.”
Sharon was bragging about his trip to Washington where he bullied Bush into selling out the Palestinians as thoroughly as Neville Chamberlain sold out the Czechs at Munich.
“Sharon Got It All” blared a banner headline in Israel. Indeed, he did.
And Raging Bull celebrated his diplomatic victory by ordering up a Saturday night hit on Abdel Rantisi, the Hamas leader who replaced Sheik Yassin, whom Sharon had assassinated by Apache gunship in March as the crippled sheik was being wheeled out of a mosque after dawn prayers.
As he surely intended, Sharon left the Arab world with the clear impression that the Americans had given a green light to his “extrajudicial” killings. Sharon seeks to make his war on the Palestinians America’s war. If Bush lets him succeed, we are finished in the Middle East.
But how did Sharon, under a cloud of scandal and corruption, at the end of his tether, badger Bush into abdicating our role as “honest broker” of Mideast peace, and into signing on to a “Sharon Plan” even a Palestinian quisling would reject?
According to the New York Times, Sharon threatened not to come to Washington unless Bush, in advance and in writing, agreed to capitulate. “In a moment of diplomatic brinkmanship,” writes James Bennet, Sharon threatened to cancel his trip if Bush refused to give him “the guarantees he wanted in exchange for his plan to withdraw settlers from the Gaza Strip.”
Still, one must marvel at Sharon’s savvy in sizing up Bush, and at the man’s chutzpah. Look at what he got for giving up less than nothing.
Gaza was captured from Egypt in 1967. Though almost all Israelis wish to be rid of it, 7,500 Jewish squatters have moved into the enclave that is home to 1.2 million Palestinians. Israelis now occupy 20 percent of Gaza, though they are but one-half of 1 percent of the population.
However, under the occupation, Hamas has flourished in Gaza and Israeli troops have been tied down there. About to be forced out of Gaza by Hamas, as Israel was forced out of Lebanon by Hezbollah, Sharon decided to get Bush to reward him for doing what he had to do.
Sharon’s ultimatum: In return for giving up Gaza, Bush must give him title to more desirable Palestinian lands on the West Bank.
Bush, who once traded Sammy Sosa away, agreed. Only this time he traded America’s reputation for honest dealing for a few words of fatuous praise from Sharon about what a great battler against terrorism he is. All to help Bush and Rove carry the south Florida condos.
But John Kerry is not a man easily out-pandered.
“That Bush’s move was good politics,” writes Dana Milbank of the Washington Post, “was evidenced by Democratic rival John F. Kerry’s quick move not to let Bush outflank him among pro-Israel voters.”
“I think that could be a positive step,” said Kerry of the Bush sell-out of the Palestinians. Our first presidents were George Washington and John Adams. Now we have on offer George Bush and John Kerry. Does that not tell you something about what has become of the old republic?
What did Bush give up? None of the Palestinians driven out of their homes by the Irgun massacre at Deir Yassin and during the 1948 war will ever be allowed to return. Palestinian rights in that 78 percent of Palestine that is already Israel, and in the sectors of the remaining 22 percent Sharon plans to annex, are forfeit forever. At Camp David, Ehud Barak offered Arafat a more generous peace than Bush, under Sharon’s direction, is willing to give the Palestinians.
Second, major Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank, planted by Sharon in violation of international law, which every U.S. president has called “obstacles to peace,” are now deeded to Israel. Like Lord Balfour, Bush is surrendering title to Arab lands he does not own and surrendering Palestinian rights that are not his to give up.
As for the Sharon Wall that snakes in and out of the West Bank, incorporating Palestinian fields, olive groves, homes and villages, Bush no longer insists it be confined to Israeli territory.
What does the mini-Munich mean? The great Zionist land thief has gotten America’s blessing to keep his stolen goods. George Bush has out-sourced his Mideast policy to Tel Aviv. The custodian of our reputation for decency and honor in an Arab world of 22 nations is now Sharon. As for Palestinians who put their faith and trust in the United States, they have been exposed as fools.
Can anyone in the White House believe that Bush’s capitulation is anything but a formula for endless war and enduring hatred of an America that cannot say no to Ariel Sharon?
Any Arab leader who signed on to this Sharon-Bush plan, which cedes huge swatches of the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem to Israel and leaves Palestinians in bantustans walled in with Israeli concrete, would be regarded as a traitor to his people, and deservedly so.