The long-awaited speech by American president, George W. Bush, enunciating the official administration vision for a comprehensive settlement of the protracted Israeli-Palestinian crisis was finally released early last week.
The American president, who had long refrained from expressing a definitive stance over the complicated crisis in contrast to the proactive involvement of former President Bill Clinton, was finally forced by the dynamics of events in the region to unfold his agenda for possible termination of the crisis.
The main kernel of the speech was his vision for two states – Israel and Palestine – living side by side in peace and security. President Bush underlined the unacceptability of terror against Israel, as well as the untenability of occupation and a life of squalor for the Palestinian people.
In the context of this speech, the American president also highlighted the need for the parties involved in the tragic spiral of events in the region to break with the past and set out on a new path which in his words “can overcome the darkness with the light of hope”. This was as far as the American leadership was able to go in pursuit of a balanced appraisal of the issues involved in this enduring conflict, located in the creation of a Zionist Israeli state in 1948, and the dispossession of the Palestinian people, as a result of that event.
The other portions of the American president’s speech were given to demands on the Palestinian people to enthrone a new and different leadership that was allegedly “uncompromised by terror”. This was an unambiguous demand for the removal of the president of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat; a man who has come to symbolise the yearnings of the Palestinian people for a homeland.
George Bush arrogantly demands that the legitimate leadership of the Palestinian people must therefore be sacrificed before the United States will support the creation of a Palestinian state. It is significant that even the closest Western allies of the US promptly rejected America’s unreasonable demand for a Palestinian leadership change. In a bizarre rendering of history, it is the oppressed people that must make all the sacrifices as outlined by the United States.
A most unfortunate aspect of American Middle Eastern policy over the decades has been the double standards that have been at the basis of all its actions in the region. America has consistently supported the criminal occupation of Palestinian lands by Zionist Israel; has abetted its atrocities against the people and turns a blind eye to the permanent flouting of United Nations Resolutions by Israel. The latest speech has not significantly departed from the traditional American position in that respect. The demand for unlimited Palestinian concessions without a commensurate insistence for civilised conduct by Israel was an expression of the complete victory for the right wing hawks of the administration, such as Vice President Dick Chenney and Defence Secretary Rumsfeld.
We nevertheless believe that the United States of America possesses enormous influence to help stem the slide into complete anarchy, chaos and unbridled violence in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
On the other hand, Israel must earn the guarantee of peaceful co-existence within secure borders, a settlement that most certainly will ensure that butchers like Ariel Sharon will no longer get the opportunity to sow the seeds of destruction and carry out targeted assassinations of Palestinians.
Despite serious misgivings about several aspects of the unbalanced and biased speech, we still believe that President Bush’s agenda can be a useful start for a difficult process that will end in the achievement of a lasting peace in the Middle East.