Saturday, March 13, 2004

Vietnam-Baghdad-Gaza Both the wars in Vietnam and Iraq and Ariel Sharon’s business-related politics will determine the course ( and maybe even the outcome ) of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. A victory of John Kerry and an end to the Israeli presence in the occupied territories would clarify the international political reality, something which would benefit not only Israelis and Palestinians. Europeans are often fascinated by the way in which in the United States something like the war in Vietnam, fought 30 years ago, can still be so important in choosing the right man as the leader of the nation. On the other hand, it is obvious for all of us that another war, the one in Iraq – which still continues, no matter what president Bush may claim – will be crucial in determining the results of the presidential elections. During the election campaigns all aspects of that war will be scrutinized and involved: the ( lack of ) justification for the attack, and the way in which it was carried out; whether and how America should cooperate with other countries and with the United Nations in (re)building Iraq; the conditions under which American soldiers are serving abroad; the consequences of the war for America and for its position in the world, etc. In Israel the military past of candidates for the position of national leader plays a much more important role than in the US. Ariel Sharon’s record is much richer and more impressive, though also much more controversial than that of Bush junior. Still, not the less kosher parts of his military past are what might bring the current Israeli prime-minister down. If Ariel Sharon is not to survive politically until the next elections ( which must be held towards the end of either the year 2006 or 2007 ), then mainly the entwining of his family-business-related and political interests will be to blame. Scandals are not something unfamiliar to Ariel Sharon, but never before were journalists and judges breathing so much down his neck as today, and never did scandals exert such an influence on his work and policy as during what are widely considered to be the last years of his active political career. The hope that ‘Arik’ will extricate Israel from the occupied territories because maybe he finally and fully understood that the occupation only brings disaster upon us and hurts the very interests of Israel, evaporated a long time ago. Most of those who voted for him and all those who gave him the benefit of the doubt were disappointed in every possible way, and his total lack of vision and unlimited talent to corrupt even further an already quite corrupt(able) society damaged his ratings considerably. If he decides to end at least the occupation of the Gaza Strip, his main and probably only motive will be his wish to survive politically and to fend off the vultures that – within and without his own party – are only waiting for the right moment to attack him. The Israeli presence in the narrow strip of land is considered useless and unnecessarily dangerous by a majority of the Israeli public, and a withdrawal – even if it is unilateral – will provide Ariel Sharon once more with a vital political breathing pause. Waiting for Sharon-Godot will not really bring us any redemption. What we need is an Israeli political leader who has the vision, political support and courage to get us out of the treacherous swamps of Judah, Samaria and Gaza and who will secure the future of the Jewish state as a democracy. Before the Americans and British started their massive bombardments and invasion of Iraq, I reluctantly supported the war against that country, simply because I could not think of any other way to get rid of the Saddam Hussein regime and because the interests, sympathies and desires of many among the war’s opponents are square to my interests, sympathies and desires. Those two reasons for supporting the war are still relevant, and I also still have an enormous respect and appreciation for the hard work and commitment of the many Americans, British, Dutch and other servicemen and -women who serve in and around Iraq. Nevertheless I think that – from the perspective of the interests of Israelis and Palestinians – it would be good if the Bush government were sent home by the voters in November. I do not blame Bush, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Powell for telling lies and half truths when justifying the war against Iraq ( hey, they are politicians, aren’t they? ). Still, I do give them the full blame for never having seriously devised and promoted a long term blue print for the Middle East, as they appeared to be totally confident that after Saddam’s death or capture all problems would solve themselves. The roadmap never was a genuine and determined effort to reach a peaceful and negotiated solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and under Bush the Americans constantly allowed Arafat, Sharon and others to preserve the disastrous status quo or to mess things up just a little bit more, while showing no real interest in finding any way out. This indifference has cost the lives of hundreds of innocent Palestinians and Israelis. Even though not too many details are known about John Kerry’s plans regarding the Middle East, they can hardly be worse than the current American non-policy for the region. Besides, the large number of former advisors and experts from the Clinton-era who support Kerry seems to guarantee a possible larger and more substantial American involvement with and interest in searching for solutions for the problems that afflict Israelis and Palestinians and make stability here ( and in the rest of the world ) an impossibility. President John Kerry and Israel without the occupied territories, for anyone who is interested in a just, more or less peaceful outcome of ‘the conflict’ that sounds like a combination too good to be true, one that will serve the interests of the Palestinians, Israel and the United States ( and of the West in general ). We can be sure about one thing: the international political reality will be much more clear and workable in a post-Sharon/post-Bush era. One secondary but altogether not less interesting consequence would be that without Bush and Sharon at their countries’ helm it will finally become known who – among those who have claimed for years that they are not anti-America but anti-Bush, or that they are not anti-Israel ( or, heaven forbid, anti-Semitic ) but anti-Sharon or anti-occupation – has consistently spoken the truth, and who among them has been lying all along.

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