“I don’t think we can defend everything we did.” That was the response former President Clinton gave to a question about U.S. support for the Indonesian occupation of East Timor which ended in 1999. Bill was in Dili, the capital of the newly established East Timor to celebrate the official independence of the new nation. After years of strife, the fate of East Timor was finally determined by a U.N. sponsored referendum in which voters opted to break with Indonesia. To her credit, Megawati, the president of Indonesia attended the independence celebrations.
After the results of the vote, militias loyal to Indonesia went on a rampage. But the Indonesians were finally forced to withdraw from East Timor by the international community and the UN moved in to prepare the native population for self-government.
Maybe Bill will make it to the celebration of Palestinian independence and make a similar confession before raising the American flag on a new American embassy in East Jerusalem. When the time comes for the American representative to give a speech in front of an ecstatic crowd of Palestinians, what excuses will he have to make for supporting Ariel Sharon, the Likudniks and the ethnic cleansers? Will he explain the role of the Israeli Lobby and the corruption of our Congress? Will he apologize for the massive amount of American subsidies to the land thieving Israeli occupation army? Will he explain why the United States gave repeated green lights to Sharon to brutalize the native people of the Holy Land?
The East Timor solution was straight forward enough. The Indonesian Army withdrew, international forces moved in, and the building of a new nation was supported by generous contributions from around the world.
With the liberation of East Timor, the Palestinians are now the only people living and dying under a foreign occupation army. East Timor provides a road map for the liberty of the Palestinians. First things first. The Israeli army should be forced to withdraw immediately to the boundaries of 1967. In the case of East Timor, the Australians took the initiative from the Americans who were inclined to ignore the nature of the Indonesian occupation. The Europeans need to step in and take a firm position on Palestinian independence. Let the Italians, the French, Spain and Greece and Turkey move to the front row of this conflict and demand an immediate solution to bring a lasting peace to all the people of the Mediterranean.
The Israelis are masters of diversion and Yasser Arafat has become an addict to negotiations about negotiations. Sharon only gets serious when he has an opportunity to commit another war crime. And Netenyahu is always there as a reminder that there are Israelis worst than Sharon. Like Indonesia, Israel will not withdraw of its own accord. And America will not force Israel to end its brutal occupation because of electioneering imperatives.
The simple solution to this problem is to give Israel 48 hours to withdraw and allow International forces to take over responsibility for providing security to the Palestinian people. Without international forces, the Israelis will feel free to invade any time Sharon gets an itch. There is only one unresolved problem to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and that is how to get the United States to play by ‘East Timor’ rules. Maybe it would sober up the State Department if they started considering the first draft of the speech Clinton or Bush will have to give on the occasion of Palestinian independence. I have an idea for the first line “I don’t think we can defend everything we did.”
Mr. Ahmed Amr is Editor of NileMedia.com in Seattle and a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN).