Bush's support to Sharon angers the world


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BBC News : World should thank Sharon - Bush

The US president has defended Israel's plan to leave Gaza and parts of the West Bank, which he backed last week.

"The whole world should have said, 'Thank you, Ariel; now we have a chance to begin the construction of a peaceful Palestinian state'," [president Bush] said.

Mr Bush sparked anger in the Arab world by saying Israel could keep some land it seized in the 1967 war.
The Bush-Sharon declaration inflamed the Arab world as it signalled the apparent abandonment by the White House of some long-held principles in the peace process - in particular that land cannot be acquired by war.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned that the Arabs hate the US more than ever following its invasion of Iraq and Israel's assassination of two leaders of the militant Palestinian group Hamas.

This is to put in relation with another important news.

Around 50 retired US diplomats have written to President Bush to complain about America's Middle East policy...

The letter is similar to one written by 52 two former British diplomats to the UK Prime Minister Tony Blair last week.

The former US diplomats complained that President Bush's policy is losing the US credibility, prestige and friends.

They criticised what they say is Washington's unabashed support for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

The American diplomats say they were deeply concerned by Mr Bush's endorsement last month of Mr Sharon's plan to withdraw unilaterally from Gaza.

One former diplomat, who is still considering whether or not to sign the letter, said that as a result of the policy, "We're not the good guys any more."

If only presidents didn't have immunity to be prosecuted...
Hah, now I do not agree with Bush being follow the leader with Ariel Sharon. Its like Bush almost thinks Ariel Sharon can do no evil. But I guess we will see how all this unfolds, If your being "fair" I think it has to go to both sides before you can call it being fair, if ppl had to give their land back, israel shouldnt be able to keep land taken by war. :p
Here... I'll just post an essay about it.

The New Agenda for Peace in the Middle East
Plan Sharon, the Bush Administration and the end of Consensus.

In the last four years the Israeli Palestinian conflict has seen unprecedented changes. The foundations that have underpinned the conflict for nearly two decades have been fundamentally altered during this span and this has affected how peace may be finally achieved. For most of the 20th century peace in the Middle East, was viewed to be only possible through cooperation between Arabs and Israelis. However the beginning of the 21st century has seen that notion almost discarded in favor of unilateral action, as Israel and the United States have chosen to act preemptively to ensure their final security. The government of Ariel Sharon has now taken the initiative to enforce the conditions of Resolution 242 as it sees fit, leaving the Palestinians a behind as a passenger instead of a co-driver towards peace. This article will examine the confluence of events that led up to this state of affairs as well as discussing the Sharon agenda for peace and stability in the Middle East. It will examine events in the international sphere, the outbreak of the second intifada, and lastly the nature of Sharon?s plans for solving the Israeli Palestinian conflict.

The International Sphere.

The Attacks on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon on September 11th 2001 and the new security environment that has emerged since has altered the context of the Palestinian conflict, but in ways not envisioned. On the surface the use of terrorism by several Palestinian groups to achieve political aims, would seem to put them directly in the line of fire of the United State led ?War on Terror.? Since the Administration sought to root out terrorism everywhere, Palestinian groups would seem to be a natural target for the new strategy. President Bush?s Remarks in front of a Joint Session of Congress on September 21st 2001 emphasize this:

?Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated?

This theme was continued and expanded on at the 2002 State of the Union Address where the President specifically singled out two Palestinian terrorist groups as providers of terrorism.

?Our military has put the terror training camps of Afghanistan out of business, yet camps still exist in at least a dozen countries. A terrorist underworld -- including groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Jaish-i-Mohammed -- operates in remote jungles and deserts, and hides in the centers of large cities. ?

However this new hard-line attitude towards Palestinian groups has not materialized. Several factors can be attributed to this. The first can be explained by the growing distinction between ?new terrorism? and ?old terrorism?, which are fundamentally different in their aims and nature. New terrorism, especially of the ilk practiced by Al Qaeda and its various subordinate organizations, is not amendable to negotiation due to its apocalyptic views driven by religious hatred. As a result, Al Qaeda exists as a pariah organization outside the international system.
Old terrorism however, which groups like the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Euskadi ta Askatausna (ETA) in Spain and the LLTE of Sri Lanka are indicative of, have limited political aims that are to some degree reconcilable. Additionally these groups focus remain fairly localized. As Jonathan Stevenson explains: ?Old terrorists are looking to bargain; new terrorist want only to cripple their enemy.? Unlike Al Qaeda, organizations associated with terrorism like the PLO often enjoys significant legitimacy in the western world, which grants it a limited level of immunity from outside intervention. The strong support for the Palestinian cause, especially in Europe, has effectively allowed groups like Hamas and the Al Aqusas Martyr brigade to escape the scrutiny of the ?War on Terror.?
As a result, the Bush administration has taken a more traditional approach towards terrorism in spite of its rhetoric. While affirming the long-standing US government policy of political support of Israel, the Bush administration has only supported relatively minor punitive measures towards Palestinian terrorist groups such as blocking financial sources and issuing diplomatic demarches. This is not to say that the Israelis Palestinian impasse does not figure heavily into US strategic calculations, yet the US?s response to ?new terrorism? has differed greatly from how it deals with terrorism in Palestine and Israel
The Bush Administration?s response to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis has been markedly different than the preceding Clinton Administration. Prior to September 11th, the Bush administration Middle East policy attempted to disengage United States from the region. This was in contrast to policy of the Clinton administration, which carved out a role as a mediator and facilitator during negotiations, devoting a significant amount of time and energy in an attempt to solve the problem. However, September 11th put the Middle East back on the foreign policy agenda for the United States. George W Bush?s agenda for the region was a marked departure from its previous stance. The key crutch of his strategy was encapsulated during the June 24th 2002 Rose Garden speech where the President outlined two key preconditions before American support for Palestinian statehood: a halt to all terrorist acts and free and fair elections for the Palestinian authority. The unequivocal promise of Palestinian statehood was a marked departure from previous Administrations, which had often vacillated on the issue, such at Camp David and Taba negotiations in late 2000 led by President Clinton. However, the continued violence in the region after the June 24th speech and the seizure of the Iranian weapon carrying ship Karine A on June 29th forced the administration to reverse its policy to its original ?hands off approach.? Without a democratically elected government for the Palestinian people that did not feature Arafat or his old guard, administration reasoned that the chances for peace were minimal at best.
The Administration conceptualized the lack of Palestinian political leadership emanating as symptomatic of a wider lack of democratic institutions in the Middle East. Yassir Arafat was not seen as a Rabin or a Saddat able to push through difficult compromises, rather he was viewed as a self-serving terrorist that was an impediment towards overall peace. However it would not be possible to replace him without outside Arab intervention that would replace him with another puppet. As a result, the regional situation acted as a severe impediment towards achieving lasting peace in the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Instead of the ?Palestine first? strategy that the Clinton administration and European allies had been pursuing, the Bush administration believed that the US should focus on the wider lack of democracy in the Middle East first, starting with Iraq. Undertaking regime change in Iraq held several attractive possibilities for the Administration. First, a revitalized Iraqi oil industry would allow the United States to wean itself from Saudi Arabian oil. This would free the constraints on United States policy towards Saud Monarchy and allow a freer hand in pressing for reforms in human rights repression, as well as challenging the Monarchy on its anti-western, and anti-Israeli policy.
The War on Iraq was also expected to have important direct consequences for Israel. The first and probably the most important was the removal of Iraq?s suspected Weapons of Mass destruction arsenal would deflate Israeli security concerns, possibly enabling the Government of Israel to ease its policy towards the Occupied Territories. According to Philip Zelikow, a member of George W. Bush?s foreign intelligence advisory board:
?Why would Iraq attack the USA or use nuclear weapons against us? I?ll tell you what I think is the real threat [is] and actually has been since 1990- it?s the threat against Israel. And this is the threat that dare not speak its name, because the European do not care deeply about that threat, I will tell you frankly. And the US government does not want to lean to hard on it rhetorically because it?s not a popular sell.

The possibility of an Israel-Iraq war, with the escalation to a WMD exchange, would have extremely disturbing consequences for the United States. Due to its strong support of Israel, the United States would be held complicit if Israel utilized its ?Sampson Option? or nuclear weapons capability, which would drag it into a foreign relations disaster of epic proportions. The specter of such an event appeared during the 1990 Gulf War, when the Hussein Regime launched several Scud missiles at Israel in a calculated strategic ploy to divide the coalition allies. Had the missiles warheads contained chemical of biological warheads, it was very likely that Israel would have responded in kind with nuclear weapons, which would have disintegrated the coalitions almost immediately. The Israeli Government has long viewed Iraq?s WMD arsenal with suspicion; in 1981 the Israeli Air Force carried out a preventative strike on the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq in order to deny the Hussein regime access to weapons grade nuclear material. The statements of then Prime Minister Menachim Begin demonstrates the Israeli fears:
"Saddam Hussein, the ruler of Iraq, who with his own hands killed his best friends in order to be the sole ruler of that country, had an ambition. He wanted to develop nuclear weapons so that he can either try to bring Israel to its knees on behalf of the Arab world, or to destroy her men folk and infrastructure and the great part of her army, which consists of reservists in the cities. In other words, he wanted to destroy our existence-in fact, our people and our country."

The aftermath of the 2003 war on Iraq certainly brought about a relaxing of security measures for the Israeli Government. It contributed to the Israeli Army decision to draw down its standing military size and curtail operations. Iraq represented the last effective regional threat, and its defeat removed the need for a large Israeli army to defend against foreign invasion. More importantly however, Iraq presented the last true regional impediment towards Israeli-Palestinian peace. Iraq?s firm refusal to join other peace initiatives and recognize a Jewish state, undoubtedly contributed towards Israeli hesitance to accept any regional peace plan. For example the March 2002 Saudi Peace plan initiated by Crowned Prince Abdullah displays the political commitment of other Arab states towards achieving peace a just and equal settlement for the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Saddam Hussein however refused to take part in the agreement, and continued to denounce Israel while supporting terrorist acts against civilian targets. His policies of giving asylum to the prominent terrorists such as Abu Nidal as well as providing compensation towards families of suicide bombers only helped to disrupt attempts at peace. Individuals in the Bush Administration likely reasoned that unless this source of instability was removed, peace would be difficult to achieve, if at all possible.
However it is questionable whether the Bush Administration?s strategy will have its desired effects. The perception in the Arab world is that the US occupation of Iraq is in no way different from the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, which has removed it from being considered as a non-biased third party able to mediate the crisis fairly. The United State?s credibility gap has been further aggravated by the Administration?s hard stance towards the Palestinian crisis. The policy of giving Palestinians hard commitments that they must complete to achieve peace, while doing nothing to curb Israeli actions only reinforces Arab contempt for the United States. Unless the Administration applies the same qualifications to the Israeli government (such as in the refusal of military aid or loan guarantees) its effectiveness as a peace broker will be limited at best.

The Second Intifada

The altered political context outside of Israel and Palestine has been more than matched by the internal situation. The start of the Second Intifada and the consequences that have resulted from it have completely altered the direction of peace in the Middle East, likely permanently. Instead of a future intertwined with each other, Israel and Palestine seem to now be heading in different directions. The catalyst for this division can be found in the failures of the Oslo peace process as a whole and particularly at Camp David and Taba.
In the late 1990s progress on the Oslo accords seemed to be stagnating, and inertia began to set in. No major breakthroughs were achieved and progress on implementing the accords on both sides had effectively stopped. The Clinton administration attempted to reinvigorate the process by launching a new peace initiative. The talks, convened at Camp David in July 2000 and Taba in January 2001, were intended to create a final status agreement that would provide a renewed impetus for both parties to continue implementation of the agreement accords. However even before the Clinton?s peace plan started, ominous signs began to emerge. Israeli Intelligence detected the preparations within Palestine for a violent confrontation against the occupation. On Israeli side, Prime Minister Ehud Barak?s coalition was trailing badly in the polls to the Likud party, led by the hard liner Ariel Sharon. This brought into question the legitimacy of any agreement made during the initiative and whether the new Israeli government would honor it.
The negotiations at Taba and Camp David were undoubtedly the closest the two parties have ever come to resolving the conflict, however in the end they were unable to produce a final agreement. On September 20th 2002, Ariel Sharon made a controversial visit to the Temple Mount a Muslim Holy site, which triggered a massive protest the next day. The heavy-handed Israeli police response to the protest gave Palestinian insurgents the provocation they needed to incite a revolt. These groups which, generally fell under the control of Fatah including Tanzim and the Al Aqsa Martyrs brigade, saw the uprising as an opportunity to blackmail Israel into accepting a lesser agreement. Senior leaders such as Yassir Arafat and Marwan Baghouti the leader of Tanzim, did little to nothing to reign in the militants, also believing that the violence would give some leeway for negotiations. This played perfectly into the hands of challenger Ariel Sharon, whose campaign platform and reputation were based on the utilization the military instruments to provide security. The start of the second Intifada would prove to many Israelis that peace initiatives in the ilk of Oslo were doomed to failure, and that Sharon?s strong position was the only alternative.
Upon taking office in February 2001, Ariel Sharon altered the Israeli response to the insurrection. He immediately escalated the conflict by shutting the borders and cracking down on militants, which included more robust rules of engagement for troops on the ground as well as air strikes and targeted assassinations. The effects of the lock down on Palestinian society were grievous, as unemployment has risen to 50%, and the number of people below the poverty line has increased to 55 to 60% in the West Bank, and 70 to 80% in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian groups responded in kind by sending suicide bombers into Israeli cities, causing severe casualties. The Israeli response included the highly controversial act of laying siege to Yassir Arafat?s compound in Ramallah, which drew international condemnation. During this stage of the conflict several attempts to mediate by outside players were launched, such as the Egyptian/Jordanian Initiative in April 2001, Senator George Mitchell?s April 2001 plan and, George Tenet May 2001. However, both Israel and the Palestinians never pursued any of them seriously.
The cycle of violence would to escalate in the fall and winter of 2001, when in a four-month period 138 Israelis were killed, with nearly 2000 deaths experienced on both sides since the start of the conflict. In response the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) launched Operation Defensive Shield, which effectively reoccupied all major Palestinian towns in order to prevent further terrorist attacks into Israel. The IDF called up 30,000 reservists during the operation, which reportedly caused 241 Palestinian casualties. The operation continued for several weeks. The political consequence of these attacks was to finally extinguish the last embers of the Oslo process by removing the territorial distinction between Palestinian, joint Palestinian and Israeli and Israeli only territories.
AS a result of the failure of Oslo and the outbreak of violence, The International community attempted to initiate a complete original peace process, Based around the Quartet which included the UN, European Union, The United States, and Russia. The roadmap reflected the hard reality that Oslo was dead, and that a completely original process for achieving peace would be needed. The initiative?s basis was similar to Oslo, as it did not provide a final status agreement but did offer a graduated process towards the resolving the crisis. However the two documents diverged at several important points. Oslo foresaw increasing economic ties between the two states in order to enhance Palestinian development as path to create peace and stability. The roadmap largely ignored this, and focused on the bare minimum needed to achieve peace and security. It deferred more contentious issues for later so that they did not encumber initial moves towards peace. It also provided firm guarantees towards the end of settlement activity, which had flourished in the aftermath of Oslo. Between 1993 and 2000 the Israeli settler population in West Bank doubled, which led to many Palestinians to label the accords as a mechanism to frustrate the aims of the Palestinian people while allowing Israel to increase its grip on the West Bank.
Immediately, the process was marred by several suicide attacks in Jerusalem that were followed by inevitable Israeli reprisals. The lack of international oversight and commitment by both sides towards implementing the roadmap has effectively derailed progress in implementation. The importance of the roadmap was emphasized by David Satterfield, the US under secretary of state, who declared that beyond the Roadmap ?we don?t have a Plan B? Although today implementation of the Roadmap remains effectively stalled, it still exists as the intellectual foundation for current attempts at resolving the crisis. Its two key benchmarks for peace; the end of Palestinian terrorism and Israeli recognition of a two state solution that assures a contiguous Palestinian state. These have been the essential elements of any peace initiative since 1967. When Israel initially occupied the West Bank after the six days war, many in the Government, such as Abba Eban Levi Eshkol the then Prime Minister of Israel, expected that the occupation of the West Bank was only temporary and the territory would be traded off for peace. However due to the actions of the Sharon Government a peaceful settlement based on mutual agreement may be out of the question. The process?s implementation is now being forced unilaterally, and the Roadmap as envisioned, may be the last document of its kind.

The Sharon Agenda

Ariel Sharon?s agenda for achieving peace in the region is a departure from previous attempts to settle the conflict. His initiative is based on the belief that the Palestinians are not interested in peace and any attempt to negotiate with them will be fruitless. Therefore Israel must take unilateral action in order to assure its own security and survival. In a curious twist, the foundations for Sharon?s attempts peace are largely based on his interpretation of the Roadmap for peace and how to implement it. Sharon premised his unilateral approach on the assumption that the current leadership of the Palestinian people is unable and unwilling to adhere to the conditions set out in the roadmap, particularly the call to cease violence. Sharon?s disdain for the current Palestinian leadership is readily apparent with his willingness to utilize targeted assassinations, going as far as threatening to eliminate Yassir Arafat.
Israel?s strategic dilemma consists of how to best ensure its own security at the lowest costs politically and economically. Previously, Israeli administrations utilized military crackdowns during uprisings in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Operation Defensive Shield is one such example. The operational logic behind this tactic is that heavy military presence in a terrorist group?s home territory disrupts their operations so that they may not carry out attacks. However these strategies are less than adequate since they invariably are viewed upon in the international community as heavy handed, such as international outcry that followed the Jenin incursion in Feburary 2002. These strategies also have a particularly heavy economic cost, as the IDF must conduct essentially what amounts to a wartime operation in order to deploy on the scaled needed for a crackdown. Direct costs associated with the Palestinian security threat amounted to 2.5~2.9 Billion dollars annually, which amounted to 2.6% of GDP.

With this in mind, the Government of Israel concluded in April 2002 that in order to ensure its security, a physical barrier should be constructed to separate the two territories. The rational behind the wall is simple. With the majority of terrorists originating from within the West Bank, sealing off the region from Israel will effectively deny them the ability cross the border in order to incite violence. According to one source, from September 2000 and August 2003 out of 116 suicide bombings, all but one were carried out by bombers that crossed from the West Bank through undefended portions of the border. By fencing off the Occupied Territories, the Israeli government would be able to withdraw most of its troops from the West Bank, and effectively enforce a two state solution on the Palestinian people. The economic costs of the maintaining the security barrier are far lower than the current strategy of deploying security forces into the territories, amounting to $255 Million dollars with 5000 troops to manning it.Israel?s approach has the forced though major issue by imposing its beliefs of how the roadmap should be implemented on the Palestinian people. Delicate issues such Israeli settlements in the West Bank have effectively been rammed through without any sort of Palestinian input, the very issues that have plagued every peace initiative. However with the prospects of peace through traditional discussions almost non-existent, physically separating the two countries may be the only viable option open towards enhancing stability in the region.
Although this approach seems to hold some merit, it is fraught with difficulties, many of which are not at all clear at this time. Likely the most contentious issue is the final path of the fence, which has not been fully settled upon. Since its inception, its envisioned route has been revised several times; in many cases due to intense international pressure. Undoubtedly the largest single revision was the removal of the proposed Jordan Valley segment that would have completely encircled the Occupied Territories, which was had the potential of inflaming international and Palestinian opinion. If the route roughly follows 1967 borders with few deviations, then it may have the proposed effect of providing some breathing space between both parties. However if the route makes deep incisions into Palestinian territory, then the wall will only help to incite tensions. Currently the northern path of the wall roughly emulates the 1967 green line except to surround the Ariel Block a large Israeli settlement deep inside the Occupied Territories. However the status of Ariel as to be Israeli territory has largely been clarified during several previous negotiations. The status of the wall around Jerusalem is likely to be the most contentious area since the area has significant religious and symbolic significance for both parties. The decision to partition off Arab East Jerusalem from the West bank, has undoubtedly contributed to a negative Palestinian attitude towards the wall.
The crown of Sharon?s strategy was made public on April 16th 2004 with the unveiling of the Gaza Disengagement Plan, which was endorsed the next day by President Bush. The plan does not represent the final status of Israel?s intentions; it is more akin to an interim report on how Israel perceives it is implementing the roadmap. It makes several significant concessions including the withdrawal of military forces in the Gaza strip and the abandonment of several settlements. On the West Bank, Sharon announced that four Israeli settlements to the north would be evacuated, that were deep in Palestinian territory and not defended by the wall. The evacuation may be harbinger of many more when construction on the wall progresses to the south of Jerusalem, and settler communities become isolated. Ultimately Sharon?s plans will likely encompass a partial or full withdrawal from the west bank like in the Gaza strip. It is not clear though what sort of role the Government of Israel will play in Palestinian politics, if it does at all. Sharon?s plans call for decreasing the economic interdependence between two territories seems to suggest that Israel is preparing to sever all ties with the Palestine and leave the country to its own devices.


In retrospect, the dynamics of the Israeli Palestinian conflict has undergone extreme changes in the last five years. The hope for peace that emerged after Oslo has been completely extinguished and has been replaced by a cold calculated realism. The Israeli Government, led by Ariel Sharon has effectively given up attempts at a joint settlement, preferring to enforce its own solution on the Palestinian people. Sharon?s agenda has also run into a fortuitous situation where the current Bush administration has effectively abandoned its predecessors? role as a moderator in the conflict. The war on Iraq has likely diverted attention away from the Israeli Palestinian conflict, and as a result given the Israeli government enough freedom to carry out its highly controversial plan. Although it is not fully apparent what will be the final outcome of these unprecedented changes, it is indisputable that the nature of the Israeli Palestinian conflict has been forever altered.


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