John Kerry and John Edwards used their debates with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to tell America that if the incumbents are re-elected, as far as Iraq goes we can expect ‘More of the same.’ Those four words exemplify the essence of the Democrats’ argument for regime change in the U.S., a Kerry-Edwards mantra, if you will, that defines the Bush administration’s plan for dealing with the debacle they got us into in Iraq. But there’s another mantra that bodes equally ill for our efforts to win the peace in Iraq, one that is used by Democrats and Republicans alike to encapsulate their approach to dealing with the mother of all issues in the region: ‘Israel has a right to defend itself.’
When John Edwards was pointedly asked to explain his party’s plan for dealing with the Israel-Palestine conflict, he ignored the question to wax indelible about Israel’s right to self-defense. Offered his opportunity to articulate the incumbency’s position, Cheney could only agree with his opponent. It would be closer to the truth for both parties to acknowledge that their plans for Israel-Palestine are one and the same: whatever Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s foot-soldiers inside the beltway tell them it’s going to be. At its heart, more of the same twisted logic that ascribes the right to self-defense to the occupier, but not the occupied.
A point of contention during the vice-presidential debate was John Edwards’ barb that the Bush administration has outsourced the capture of Usama Bin Laden to Afghan warlords. But there is no arguing that it has outsourced the Israel-Palestine conflict resolution to Israel. After repeatedly asserting that he would do whatever it takes to ensure that Israelis and Palestinians comply with his peace plan, the much-vaunted but ill-fated ‘Road Map’, President Bush has shown he was only talking the talk. When it came time to walk, he toed Sharon’s line–all the way around the illegal Israeli colonies on the West Bank.
Our leaders on both sides of the aisle trip over themselves to trumpet another of Sharon’s hypnotic mantras: ‘Israel has no partner for peace.’ The truth is Sharon can find no Palestinian who will accept Israel’s definition of peace: a Palestinian entity the contours of which are defined by Israeli settlements, the borders, airspace and aquifers of which are controlled by Israel, and the disjointed non-contiguity of which more resembles Apartheid South Africa’s reviled Bantustans than any viable state in the world today. For all its despicable corruption and ineptitude, the Palestinian Authority would ink a peace deal tomorrow if Israel would withdraw from the territories it occupied in 1967, but that is a step Israel has never countenanced–not in Oslo, not at Camp David, not even as a theoretical response to the cessation of Palestinian violence. It is truly the Palestinians who have no partner for peace.
While it is refreshing to hear the Democratic team of Kerry and Edwards join Republican Senators John McCain, Chuck Hagel and Richard Luger in articulating self-evident truths about the quagmire in Iraq (and in doing so highlight the Bush administration’s dastardly delusional denial) the truth is neither party has a hope of turning things around for America in the Middle East without first confronting the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a manner that puts America’s interests ahead of Israel’s. Focusing on Iraq as the core issue of this election misses the point, for we cannot win the region’s hearts and minds through a war conceived and championed by avowed pro-Israel zealots like Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser and Richard Perle. The folly of their approach continues to unfold before us on a daily basis. In the bigger picture, it is perhaps best captured by President Bush’s pre-war claim that the peace train to Jerusalem goes through Baghdad. How Jerusalemites must be praying to their sacred heavens that Bush’s train never reaches their holy city.
During his debate with John Edwards, Dick Cheney cited Saddam Hussein’s support for Abu Nidal and for the Palestinian suicide bombers as evidence of the deposed Iraqi dictator’s links with terror. But Abu Nidal and the suicide bombers are enemies of Israel, not of the U.S. It is the Bush administration’s neoconservatives that have succeeded in defining our enemies as Israel’s enemies, and not, as is painfully clear, to our benefit. Unfortunately, both the Democratic challengers and the Republican incumbents define their future approach to Israel–and, unwittingly, its consequences for our nation–with the same dreaded four words: More of the same.
TARIF ABBOUSHI lives in Houston. He can be reached at: TAbboushi@aol.com