This Tuesday was a doubly good day: The Democrats won and the Republicans lost.
My father and mother once told me that they could have emigrated from Poland to the United States - they had a visa - but decided to move to Palestine, the Land of Israel. My parents were sworn Zionists. Had they settled in the United States, some 80 years ago, and made me a U.S. citizen by birth, I would never vote for George Bush.
I cannot support the president's positions on abortions, homosexuals, stem-cell research; I could never put my faith in someone who brushes aside the Kyoto Protocol, who turns a cold shoulder to the issue of global warming; in someone who didn't have the wherewithal to come to the assistance of the New Orleans flood victims; in someone who wiretaps hundreds of thousands of citizens in violation of the law and the Constitution, who holds detainees without trial, who condones torture and the whisking away of suspects into "black holes"; in someone who is driven by religious-fundamentalist urges rather than cool-headed realpolitik considerations.
My parents decided my fate, and I am an Israeli citizen - thank God, and Mom and Dad - and it is not fitting for me to intervene in the internal affairs of a foreign power. But I am still allowed to appeal to you, to all the GA participants, and, as an Israeli fraught with worry, to express my opinion and voice my wish. Not only am I allowed to, it is also my duty to my country and to the people of whom I am a part.
With the global and Middle Eastern policies he promotes, George Bush is a danger to us here - his friendship is a curse in disguise. His decision to embark on the Iraq War was a patently anti-Israel one.
The fatal embroilment in Iraq leaves no room for dealing with Iran and stepping in in time to prevent its nuclear armament, which threatens the "Great Satan" far less than it does the "Little Satan." The United States has lost its superpower deterrence in Iraq, and all the crazies of the world, wherever they may be, already know that the U.S. bite is not as bad as its bark and can be scoffed at; Ahmadinejad is celebrating, and his North Korean counterpart has joined the party.
And not only has deterrence through force been lost, moral deterrence has vanished, too: Today, any war criminal can scrub and launder his misdeeds with U.S. soap; if the United States can disregard the Geneva Conventions, anyone can.
The doomed war is paralyzing a stunned and reeling government, freezing any political initiative and abandoning our region to chaos. America the hurt and offended is now shaking its finger at Iran and Syria, at Hezbollah and Hamas; but none of them appears very impressed or perturbed. America doesn't talk to scumbags - Washington's ridiculous policy, which it dictates to Israel, too. Duty and responsibility, however, call for very serious consideration of the Syrian president's talk of wanting a peace settlement; duty and responsibility urge a more intense effort to bolster Mahmoud Abbas, not only with empty talk and false promises, but with real action, too.
But American-Republican interests push vital Israeli interests aside; and it seems like everyone is waiting for the inevitable violent outbreak that is on the way. In the recent Lebanon war, too, Bush-oriented considerations intervened in Olmert-oriented considerations, and vice versa - and the terrible outcome was plain to see. It is not fair for Washington to hitch Jerusalem to its faltering war machine.
Sooner or later, and apparently sooner, the United States will withdraw its forces from Iraq - it has no alternative. It is therefore important and urgent to remember - and I remind you, too - that America is far from the epicenter, whereas Israel is very close to it. We remain here, with all the inciting and rabble-rousing fundamentalists, and all that they would like to do to America will be brought down upon us. Even the Iraqi prime minister, the protege of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld warring family, is beginning to distance himself from his arrogant and obtuse patrons. It is high time the Israeli prime minister also began conducting less slavish and more independent policies for the good of his own country - our country.
The trauma of Vietnam will pale in comparison to the trauma of Iraq, and many years will pass before the United States can again play an active and beneficial role in our poor region. And if this is the case, let Israel save itself without having to carry the U.S. baggage on its back, as if it were the messenger boy of a lost and senseless administration.
Ehud Olmert is visiting the United States this week; his status in the opinion polls is at a miserable low, similar to that of Bush. He will also be participating in your assembly. It would not be good if Olmert were to return to Israel and continue to use the same old excuses for his shortcomings and for dragging his feet - "the United States thinks the same" and "the Jews of America think so, too."
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