June 10, 2003

Honest Broker Watch I don't

Honest Broker Watch

I don't think Arik Sharon did himself too many favors today. People in Washington are asking why Rantisi now? Oh, O.K., Rantisi made some post-Aqaba statements that the struggle continued or some such despite the summit and Abu Mazen's call to lay down arms (are you surprised?).

But the IDF could have targetted Rantisi on myriad occasions over the past years. Clearly, Sharon is making the point that Israel will not take any security risks just for the sake of roadmap implementation, or to paraphrase a previous Arik locution, he will not allow the Arabs to be appeased on the backs of the Israelis.

Israelis have profoundly legitimate security concerns given the carnage visited upon them week after week through the scourge of suicide bombing and other forms of terror. But life in the Occupied Territories isn't rosy either folks. In fact, significant swaths of Palestinian society live in abysmal humanitarian conditions--on top of the feelings of national humiliation stemming from the daily grind of occupation--checkpoints, house demolitions, curfews.

So Dubya is, after having removed a major regional threat of Israel's, doing his best to revivify the peace process that will lead to a two-state solution that provides security to the Israelis in return for land to the Palestinians. We could assume that Hamas, Jihad Islami and Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade would try to mount a joint operation to scuttle the peace process. After all, the peace process has always been a race against time between moderates striving for a negotiated settlement and extremists (on both sides, see Yigal Amir and the like for the Israeli variant) intent on scuttling the peacemaking project.

But the Bush Administration might have hoped, given the close U.S. relationship with Israel and the support she has been lent by Washington over many years as ultimate guarantor of her security, that Sharon would not have decided to conduct a major operation in Gaza at this juncture--seemingly merely because of some recent statements to the press by Rantisi that were not qualitatively different than any of the other anti-Israeli hate he's been spewing for years.

What does all this portend? Well, Powell and Condi will attempt to cleap up. You've likely already heard the "deeply troubled" statements emanating from 1600 Pennsylvannia. Abu Mazen is calling the IDF action against Rantisi terrorism. Meanwhile Israeli Defense Minister Mofaz is talking about an imminent expulsion of Arafat. Grim as ever, huh?

Obviously, the nascent attempt at breathing new life into the peace process, viewed by some Beltway cynics as farcical or quixotic to begin with, has already taken some significant body blows. But remember this about Bush. He's a man of his word and has now put his personal prestige, if tentatively, into this morass. He means to pressure the parties to keep moving towards roadmap implementation even in the face of continued violence. This means he will have to apply pressure not only on the Palestinian front but also with Tel Aviv. There is no other choice but to pressure Sharon and persuade him that long term Israeli security is contigent on moving towards realization of a political settlement.

And if you believe this Haaretz piece, you can assume the Bush-Sharon relationship is in for some pretty significant turbulence in the weeks ahead because of increasing pressure on the Israeli leader from Dubya:

At the advance request of Israel, Bush's aides put
security problems at the top of the agenda for
discussion. "The first thing that Bush was
required to talk about was security," says the
participant, adding, "It was a request of the
Israelis. So [Bush] asked Dahlan to give a
briefing."

According to the source, Dahlan gave an excellent
five-minute synopsis of the situation, and
concluded by saying to Bush: "There are some
things we can do and some things we cannot. We
will do our best. But we will need help."

Mofaz burst in at the end of Dahlan's presentation
and said: "Well, they won't be getting any help
from us; they have their own security service."

You could see that Bush was irritated, says the
participant, and he turned on Mofaz angrily:
"Their own security service? But you have
destroyed their security service."

Mofaz shook his head and said: "I do not think
that we can help them, Mr. President," - to which
Bush said: "Oh, but I think that you can. And I
think that you will."

Then Bush turned to Abbas - again according to a
script insisted on by the Israelis - and said:
"Mr. Prime Minister, perhaps you could give an
overview of the situation in the West Bank and
Gaza." Abbas outlined the increasingly dire
situation of the territories, saying that the
humanitarian crisis was deepening, and that while
recent actions of the finance minister had eased
the problems, the insertion of new funding was
necessary.

Sharon then interrupted and said: "The insertion
of new funding must be dependent on your good
behavior."

Bush was again visibly irritated: "You should
release their money as soon as possible. This
will help the situation."

Sharon shook his head: "We have to deal with
security first, and we will condition the release
of their monies on this alone."

Bush peered at Sharon: "But it is their money
..."

Sharon said: "Nevertheless, Mr. President ..." and
Bush interrupted him: "It is their money, give it
to them."

Posted by Gregory at June 10, 2003 10:17 PM
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Posted by: Inkjet Cartridges at October 15, 2004 03:28 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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