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Statements by presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry and his running mate Sen. John Edwards on issues concerning the Palestinian-Israeli conflict indicate that if elected this coming November 2nd, they would follow the same policies as the Bush-Cheney administration concerning the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Four years of unbalanced Bush-Cheney policies have failed to secure an end to the violence or a resumption of negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis. The reversal by Bush of decades-long U.S. policy regarding borders, Jewish settlements, Palestinian refugees and the principle of bilateral Palestinian-Israeli negotiations has damaged U.S. credibility in the Middle East and the international community.
Kerry and Edwards’ pledge to rebuild U.S. credibility abroad cannot apply only to Iraq. The greatest test for U.S. credibility in the Middle East is in Palestine. The Bush administration has dealt a blow to U.S credibility due to its actions in Iraq and its inaction in the Occupied Territories which a Kerry administration must resolve if it is to better.
In an effort to gain support among pro-Israel Americans, both campaigns have been competing to outbid each other on their support for Israel. On 6 October 2004, the Bush administration vetoed a draft resolution regarding Israel’s military attack on Gaza which has lead to the death of over 80 Palestinians. During the vice-presidential debate on 5 October 2004, Edwards failed to recognize Palestinian deaths and suffering, referring only to the loss of life on the Israeli side.
To bolster support among Jewish Americans, Kerry proudly opposed the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling which argued that the separation wall Israel is building in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is illegal, and added that Israel’s “fence” only exists in response to the “wave of terror” attacks against Israel. His opposition differs little from Bush’s endorsement of Israel’s plan to annex six major West Bank settlement blocs into Israel.
Neither candidate recognizes that the wall’s route does not separate Israelis from potential Palestinian attackers; it separates Palestinians from Palestinians, Palestinians from their homes, their schools, their jobs and medical facilities. Once completed, the wall will establish a new and un-negotiated border between Israel and the West Bank. Both Bush and Kerry say they support the creation of a Palestinian state but fail to discuss what territorial shape the state would take if Israel maintains its current plan to keep the settlements and complete the wall around the entire West Bank, separating it not only from Jordan on the East and Jerusalem on the West, but also the northern areas from the southern.
Bush has stated consistently that he would never pressure Israel to take any action it feels would compromise its security; John Kerry concurs.
Israel believes that ending its 37-year military occupation of Palestine compromises its security, and it feels that “disengaging” from part of the Occupied Territories while maintaining overall control of that area will strengthen its security-a plan that Bush endorses; John Kerry concurs.
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict seems to be the one thing that both the Bush and Kerry camps agree on. Both sides seem to have outsourced U.S. foreign policy towards Palestine and Israel to Israel.
Israel’s security is best served when the sovereignty and national interests of Palestinians and Israelis are equally addressed. Israel’s security and that of the entire region is bolstered when a credible America abroad institutes its principles of freedom, democracy and the rule of law.
SAMAR ASSAD is Senior Analyst at The Palestine Center. Sasha Ross, Palestine Center Program Assistant, contributed to this brief.