On mother’s day, the Likud party overwhelmingly rejected the idea of a Palestinian state in complete defiance of the position advanced by President Bush who sees the establishment of a Palestinian State as the only solution to resolving the Middle East conflict. It is also a key that will open up opportunities for the US to once again establish a new order in the Middle East that will safeguard America and American interests from terrorism and the growing anti-Americanism in the Muslim world.
The Likud vote not only rejects the only path to comprehensive peace in the Middle East but also makes a mockery of American positions on the subject and undermines American interests in the region and its war on terrorism. The most devastating consequence of this statement by the ruling party in Israel is the message it sends to the Palestinians. If Likud has its way it will leave the Palestinians with only three options – eternal occupation and life without freedom and dignity forever, forcible expulsion or ethnic cleansing (a policy preferred by some American Republicans such Dick Armey), or a fight to the finish.
Likud’s vote also tips the balance of power within the Palestinian community. About 80% Palestinians favor a two state solution and are willing to live in peaceful co-existence with Israel. But nearly 20% of Palestinians support Hamas and Islamic Jihad who stand for complete extermination of the Jewish state and like Likud favor only a one state solution to the crisis. While Hamas and Likud may use different means, the former preferring suicide bombers, and the later preferring strategic bombers (F-16s), tanks and barricades, it seems that they mirror each other in their intransigence and anti-peace ideologies. The Likud vote to reject the Palestinian state will certainly make Hamas and its methods more popular. Netanyahu, the most extreme of Israeli voices is fast becoming the recruiter-in-chief of suicide bombers for Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
The Palestinian Authority is already screaming foul. Saeb Erakat the Chief Palestinian negotiator saw the vote as a statement of the Israelis to deny the Palestinians their legitimate rights and to continue the occupation, settlement and the demographic annexation of Jerusalem.
Washington as usual is downplaying the issue. Israel continues to takes steps that make peace impossible and Washington merely responds by increasing its support and commitment to Israel. The American government and the media, important elements of which have often functioned as an arm of the government since 9/11, have made demanding commitments to peace from Arafat and the Palestinians an art form. But when it comes to Israel they are always eager to work overtime as damage control subcontractors. In fact the Israeli media often puts the American media to shame when it comes to ‘fair and balanced” reporting on the subject.
At the moment, America is promising a Palestinian state in the near future if the Palestinians give up their armed struggle against Israel. If the Palestinians do comply, can the US deliver? It seems that the Likud/Israel has more influence in the Congress and the media than the White House and they are in no mood to toe the President’s line on this crucial issue. Who should the Palestinian leadership listen to? Should they take the American President seriously and condemn violence and give up their only effective weapon – suicide bombing – or should they listen to the Israeli ruling party and get ready for Armageddon. After all wasn’t it an American, Patrick Henry, and not a Palestinian who said ‘Give me Freedom or Give me Death”?
There is hope still. Let’s not concede victory to Netanyahu and his extreme designs. Even as the warmongering Likuds were rejecting the visions of their own leader Sharon and the American President, hundreds of thousands of Israelis marched on May 11th calling for peace, withdrawal and an end to occupation. Shimon Peres himself, perhaps anticipating the Likud vote, declared that the best thing that could happen to Palestinians and the Israelis was creation of the Palestinian State. He also reflected that perhaps it was a mistake not making a Palestinian state the immediate goal of the Oslo accords.
The first Intifada led to Oslo. The second has led to suicide bombings, reoccupation and war crimes. Both communities continue to suffer. But there is a difference, while the international community refuses to deal with Palestinian extremists who reject the Israeli state, Israeli extremists (Netanyahu – the architect of the Likud vote) who reject the Palestinian state get to address the US senate and get private audiences with the US Vice President.
It is time to end all double standards and for the US and the international community to reject all extremists. Before the region falls into despair and self-destructs we must move ahead aggressively to enforce a just peace in the Middle East.