Jul 1, 2002
On June 24th Bush demanded that Yasser Arafat step down and the Palestinians choose a new leadership. A minister in Ariel Sharon’s Israeli government said the speech “could have been written by the Likud,” that is, Sharon’s party.
When Sharon’s brutal policy provoked an outbreak of suicide attacks, Sharon had cynically declared – despite all the evidence to the contrary – that Arafat was responsible for them. Sharon had also pretended that he himself wants to make peace but Arafat isn’t willing.
Around the world – including in Europe and Japan – Sharon has been criticized for his intransigent policy: repression of all Palestinians in the occupied territories, more Jewish settlements on Palestinian land, and attempts to destroy the Palestinian Authority. But Bush, the leader of the world’s superpower, the only nation which truly could force the Israeli government to carry out a different policy, instead pretends that Arafat is to blame for the lack of a peace agreement.
Many times in the course of dirty wars like the one Israel is waging against the Palestinians, leaders of the occupying army declare that they’re ready for peace, but they can’t deal with the leaders of the forces fighting against the occupation. That’s what French leaders said during their war against Algeria, what the United States did in Viet Nam, vainly seeking to set up a “third force.” It’s obvious that an occupying army prefers to deal with people who will surrender rather than those who fight back.
Today, the Israeli leaders, with Bush standing behind them, repeat this same ridiculous lie. The current Palestinian leaders doubtless represent a small layer of bourgeois Palestinians, often corrupted, little concerned in fact for the interests of their people. But this certainly doesn’t give the Israeli leaders or the Americans the right to change them. Whatever leaders they might set up would only be worse.
For the time being, requiring that Arafat be replaced before peace talks can begin amounts to putting off indefinitely any attempt at settlement. This is what Sharon has in mind and what Bush has just ratified.
Nevertheless, they can’t continue indefinitely to deny the most elementary rights to an entire people. This policy is doomed to the same failure as all preceding attempts to fabricate “third forces.” In the meantime, the policy of Israel and Bush can only increase the credit of Arafat with the Palestinians.