In placing the blame for the current violence squarely on the Palestinians, President Bush has come up lamentably short.
Replace your leadership, Bush tells the Palestinians. Meanwhile, the United States does business with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, whose bloodied past led an Israeli commission of inquiry to charge him with a level of responsibility for a war crime, deeming him unfit to serve as his country’s defense minister. We receive Sharon out of our unshakable commitment to democracy. It suffices that he is Israel’s elected leader. But no such courtesy is extended to the Palestinians. Elected or not, Yasser Arafat and the current leadership must go. Re- electing it is impermissible. Democracy be damned.
Adopt a constitution, President Bush demands of the Palestinians.
Israel has never had a constitution. It has a set of laws, some blatantly racist in their assignment of privilege based on religion, but no constitution. We could offer Israel a copy of the U.S. Constitution, except, of course, it would require the dismantling of Israel’s Zionist infrastructure.
Build a democracy based on tolerance and liberty, the president beseeches the Palestinians.
A democracy based on tolerance is presumably one that, like our great democracy, has at its core the separation of church and state. And a democracy based on liberty? Can we understand that to be one that does not deny liberty to anyone, a concept fundamentally incompatible with the notion of militarily occupying another people’s land?
Neither parameter fits the Israeli model of democracy.
To his credit, Bush has recognized and stated that Israeli settlement activity must stop, and that the Israeli occupation must end. But his position is plagued by the same inconsistencies that have tarnished his attempts at statesmanship in the Middle East in the past. On the one hand, he conditions U.S. support for the creation of a Palestinian state on the Palestinian people having “new security agreements with their neighbors,” meaning their Israeli neighbors. Yet he also states that a “Palestinian state is necessary to achieve the security that Israel longs for.” A Palestinian state is necessary for Israeli security, but support for a Palestinian state will be withheld until Israel is secure.
There is a way out of the stalemate. It is to recognize, and base our policy, on the principle of cause and effect. The Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory preceded — by decades, no less — Palestinian terror attacks against Israel. The occupation and colonization of the West Bank and Gaza are not a response to the terror, but the reason for it.
President Bush must understand this simple truth before he can successfully formulate a process to turn his vision of two independent, viable, secure states into reality. Failing that, Palestinians and Israelis alike will be doomed for the remainder of Bush’s presidency — waiting for salvation which never comes.
Tarif Abboushi is a director of the Houston chapter of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.