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U.S. envoy to the Middle East, retired marine general Anthony Zinni’s announcement of his decision to end his cease-fire mission following his meeting Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon adds yet another blunder to the numerous failed attempts throughout history for the U.S. to act as a genuine peace broker between Palestinians and Israelis.
As General Zinni shuttled back and forth between Israel and Palestine his efforts were marred by an increased intensity of violence. Israeli F-16’s greeted his visit only 24 hours prior to his arrival, a wave of suicide bombers entertained him while here, and F-16 strikes on Palestinian cities wished him farewell. The series of events that propelled the cycle of violence comes as no surprise to those living the daily horrors of Israel’s 34 years of occupation policy.
Blind to the facts on the ground being created by Israeli Prime Minister Sharon, and Israel’s previous administrations, General Zinni came riding into the Middle East on Secretary of State Powell’s white horse. Armed with the newest U.S. Middle East initiative, he had the mandate to “prod” and “present ideas”. It seems the U.S. naively believed that a decorated U.S. General could speak sense into a desecrated Israeli General.
Once again, the U.S. fails in mediation, leaving the region in a “might is right” mode. Zinni’s mission, and the hundreds before him, did not have to end in failure. The tools to solve the conflict reside in Washington D.C., but no U.S. Administration has had the political will or moral courage to employ them.
With U.S. taxpayer dollars freely flowing into Israel to a tune of $3 billion per year, the U.S. has the financial clout to stop aid to Israel until steps are taken toward ending Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinians. These funds are directly responsible for the freeing of other funds that Israel uses to build illegal settlements and fund its continued gross violations of human rights.
U.S. provided armaments, F-16’s, Apache helicopters, M-16’s, etc, are being indiscriminately used to attack Palestinians, both civilians and Authority. While U.S. decision-makers publicly “demand” explanation for Israel’s continued air strikes, which are, or have, destroyed any possibility for peace, the U.S. refuses to stop arming Israel, even though U.S. Law requires its weapons not be used in such cases.
As Israel’s economy dramatically fails as it wages war on Palestinians, the U.S. refuses to take additional economic measures to bring Israel in line with the will of the world. Instead, Israel’s free trade agreement status stands unscathed providing an economic safety net for any Israeli aggression.
Most importantly, the U.S. fails to puts its weight behind the countless number of UN resolutions that call for the end to Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Instead, Secretary of State Powell reiterated the U.S. position that, “The only lasting peace will be the peace the parties make themselves.” It is interesting how the occupied are required to reach an agreement with the occupier, while in Iraq and Afghanistan no agreement was required by the parties before the U.S. flexed its muscles.
As the Israeli occupation generates more and more Palestinians that have equated life under occupation to death, it is no wonder the phenomena of suicide bombers exist. Ten years of Oslo, diplomacy and civil disobedience got the Palestinians nowhere. Fifteen months of Intifada and sadly, six months of suicide attacks have, for all practical purposes, stopped the expansion of settlements, alerted the Israeli citizens that their government is still oppressing their neighbors, seriously damaged the Israeli economy, reduced Jewish immigration to Israel and brought the U.S. to recognize the “P” word, Palestine.
Instead of forging forward a new path, the U.S. thrust has been to join an Israeli character assassination of elected Palestinian President Yaser Arafat. The U.S. would be well advised to address the core issue of ending occupation rather than meddle in domestic Palestinian affairs. After all, it was former President Jimmy Carter that monitored and certified the election of President Arafat.
We wish General Zinni a nice life and we can promise him one thing. As long as Israeli occupation is permitted to survive, he can come back in 10 months or 10 years and would have not missed much – Palestinians, stripped of their dignity, land and freedom will continue to struggle, with Arafat or without.
Mr. Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American businessman, born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, who relocated to his family’s home in Al-Bireh, West Bank immediately following the signing of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords. He is co-author of HOMELAND: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians (1994). Mr. Michael Dahan is an Israeli political scientist currently conducting postdoctoral research at the University of Cincinnati. Mr. Bahour and Mr. Dahan are co-founders of MEViC, the Middle East Virtual Community.
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