President Bush : AWOL (Again) in Gaza

Israeli army amasses troops at a gathering point just outside the northern Gaza Strip July 8, 2006. (MaanImages/Inbal Rose)


The Bush Administration has been A.W.O.L. when it comes to being an effective peacemaker between 4 million Palestinians and 6 million Israelis. Having locked itself into the untenable position of rejecting the results of the Hamas election six months ago in Palestine, the administration and Israel now find themselves facing a full-scale insurgency. Both countries have only a military solution. Several times in the past five years spokespersons for the administration have said that there is no military solution to the confrontation between Israel and Palestine.

Two leading Israeli commentators have concluded that the absence of any effective American mediation has permitted the crisis to drift into a super crisis that could affect the whole Middle East and the containment of terror.

Yossi Beilin, the Geneva Accord co-author and long time Israeli peace party leader and member of the Knesset, writes in Ha’aretz, “The worsening conflict in the Middle East is a blatant reflection of the weakness of the American partner.” The former Minister of Justice might have gone on to say that the unwritten alliance between America and Israel prevents a debate about Israeli actions that are judged by the rest of the world egregious violations of international law. Such actions in Gaza are also direct violations of agreements between America and Israel regarding the use of American military equipment.

The 9,000 shells and many dozens of missiles so far fired into one of the most populous and poor places on earth has cost American taxpayers approximately $10 million dollars in the past month. One out of every four Israeli dollars spent on their huge defense establishment comes directly from the American taxpayer. The shells and bombs and missiles used in Gaza might well have had stamped on them, “A gift from America to the people of Palestine.”

The U.S. has reportedly now encouraged Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to get involved and seek a resolution to the abduction crisis. But it has given no public hint that Israel should negotiate the return of the soldier by releasing some prisoners, who are being held illegally inside Israel, again in violation of the Geneva Convention. Negotiations were held for the return of civilians and dead Israelis from South Lebanon. Should Washington now clearly indicate to Israel that a similar formula is needed in the present crisis?

Another well-known Israeli commentator, Gideon Levy, wrote, also in Ha’aretz, a second stunning indictment of both Israeli and American policy in the Gaza crisis:

“Will the blackout of Gaza bring down the Hamas government or cause the population to rally around it? And even if Hamas fails, as Washington wants, what will happen on the day after? These are questions for which nobody has any real answers. As usual here: Quiet, we’re shooting. But this time we are not only shooting. We are bombing and shelling, darkening and destroying, imposing a siege and kidnapping like the worst of terrorists and nobody breaks the silence to ask, what the hell for, and according to what right?”

Israel’s own critics are writing and saying it like it is. Washington continues to talk about a “balanced” UN resolution instead of one that honestly and frankly condemns Israel’s response. What are best friends for if not to take away the keys when the driver has obviously lost his balance and is a danger to everyone? What is needed in Gaza now is smart diplomacy, not smart bombs.

The Council for the National Interest is a non-profit, non-partisan grassroots organization founded seventeen years ago by former Congressmen Paul Findley (R-IL) and Pete McCloskey (R-CA) to advocate a new direction for U.S. Middle East policy. CNI seeks to encourage and promote a U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East that is consistent with American values, protects our national interests, and contributes to a just solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, as well as to restore a political environment in America in which voters and their elected officials are free from the undue influence and pressure of a foreign country, namely Israel.

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