It's interesting that it's always the right-wingers who go on the attack against American ambassadors with the argument that they should keep their noses out of Israel's domestic affairs. Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu could teach Dan Kurtzer and Martin Indyk a book's worth of lessons about how to enlist the support of Congress, Jews, and public opinion against the White House.
It's not only because of the tradition of crude Israeli intervention in American politics that the complaints emanating from the Prime Minister's Office against Kurtzer have the ring of the weeping orphan who murdered his own parents. Given the Bush administration's policies, the right has no reason to complain. It's the left that should be protesting against the Americans, and not about them sticking their nose into Israeli affairs, but over the way they've pulled their feet out of the swamp. The first demonstration for the ambassador to suggest that students organize should have been opposite Kurtzer's office, to warn against the severe ramifications of a worsening of the crisis in relations between the U.S. and the Palestinian Authority.
There's nothing wrong with immoderate pressure on Yasser Arafat. On the contrary, there's reason behind the theory that he only makes difficult political decisions after he realizes that the violence has closed the doors to the leaders of Arab and Western nations. But whenever it seems the pressure is going to bear fruit, like in the wake of the capture of the Karine A weapons ship, Israel frees him, like when it destroyed the houses in Rafah. Every assassination and demolition reignites Arafat's hope that Egypt will influence Europe, which will have an impact on the U.S., which will twist Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's arm.
Washington's understanding for Israel's escalating responses is being interpreted by the PMO and the chief of staff as legitimization of the policy of obliterating the Palestinian Authority. This could lead to a result that is in direct opposition to Israeli interests; escalation would force Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Europe to side with Arafat, reducing some of the pressure on him, when without that pressure, it's unlikely he'll put down his weapons. Moreover, the Israeli peace camp should not be interested in the Palestinians coming to the conclusion that it's not only the Sharon government's that's lost, but also the Bush administration. If the White House divorces Arafat, and Congress votes to cut the remaining aid to the Palestinians, Israel will lose the only remaining little bit of sanity in the madness that struck yesterday.
It's true that states, like superpowers, don't do favors for other countries. But the Bush administration can not wash its hands of Arafat. In conversations with European leaders, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell admitted he made a mistake when he gave in to Sharon's demand to add seven days of quiet to the Mitchell Report, and that when he agreed Sharon would be the final arbiter of when the demand for quiet had been fulfilled.
The U.S. turned a blind eye to the fact that the report stated clearly that none of the efforts to achieve a cease-fire will last long without serious negotiations. It also said that security cooperation can not last long with settlement activity. The distinction between dealing with the violence and the settlement freeze was a joint invention by the Sharon and Bush governments.
When was the last time an American leader proposed cutting the huge amounts of money the government invests in the settlement effort from the annual U.S. aid package? The Jerusalem consulate reports back to Washington every week about new hilltops captured by the emissaries of the Sharon-Peres government. It took a major effort to hear the laconic State Department condemnation of the house demolitions in Rafah and East Jerusalem. But even if Zinni is right and Arafat is the "capo di tutti capi" and Ben-Gurion was right when he said Sharon is a liar, that doesn't mean Bush doesn't bear any responsibility. One doesn't need the only superpower in the world to deal with an argument between Mother Teresa and the Mahatma Gandhi.
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