Yasir Arafat is dead…long live Mahmoud Abbas!
Ariel Sharon’s heard the news and adopted a more flexible and cooperative attitude toward his new Palestinian interlocutor, Mahmoud Abbas. George Bush’s heard the news and embraced the peace process and promised a full court U.S. press to facilitate an agreement. The Israeli population’s heard the news and is open to a territorial compromise that would involve returning significant amounts of territory the Palestinians in return from a lasting peace. American Jews have heard the news and also are similarly open to a compromise. Only two groups (and they are unfortunately critical to the political equation) don’t yet seem to have heard the news: the Conference of President’s of Major Jewish Organizations which, despite Israeli government support for it, has remained silent on Sharon’s Gaza pullout; and the U.S. Congress. They are both like Swift’s slumbering giant, so completely enmeshed in their own politically intransigent illusions that they can’t possibly free themselves when the moment of truth and the time for new approaches arrives.
Director of Policy
To help establish his bona fides with the new Palestinian government, George Bush is pushing for $200 million in aid to Palestine. What does a Republican dominated House of Representatives do to help their president?
The House Appropriations Committee attached a host of conditions to the aid which, amazingly, are more onerous than those placed on Palestinian aid when Yasir Arafat was in charge. Not only does Congress rightfully demand an end to terrorism and incitement (which, is, of course, the Bush policy), it wants “schools, mosques and other institutions…to promote peace and coexistence with Israel.” It demands investigations into Yasir Arafat’s finances. It wants the internet monitored for hate speech. The list goes on and on.
—M.J. Rosenberg, What’s Wrong With Congress?
Hey Congress, have you heard the news?? The Palestinians aren’t the bad guys anymore. We’re attempting a serious and delicate process of bringing the two sides together. Even the usually dithering (when it comes to the Israeli Palestinian conflict) George Bush is on board. What will it take to make them get with the program? Of course, it will take George Bush’s fiery wrath to get them on board. But is Bush willing to take these Republican nitwits on and bring them to heel? Or does perhaps both the aid package AND Congressional opposition to it serve two diametrically opposite purposes for Bush: that he can say he tried to help the Palestinians, but those big bad Republican Congressmen didn’t let me; AND he can tell the Christian Zionist/Evangelicals and right wing American Jews that Republicans are soft on neither Palestinians nor Muslims.
Rosenberg closes his piece movingly, appealing for Congress to liberate itself from the tyranny of Arafat’s memory and step bravely into a new era:
At this moment, this fleeting moment perhaps, helping the Palestinians is helping Israel and vice versa. The security of one is dependent on the security of the other. That is why taking actions like the House Committee did on Tuesday profoundly damages Israel. Israel wants a strong PA that can and will liquidate the suicide bombers and build a democracy that will live in peace with Israel.
That is what Bush wants. It is what Sharon wants. What, in heaven’s name, does Congress want?
If you liked what you read here you might want to check out the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Blog Directory, which features eight other Jewish and Arab bloggers with progressive views on the conflict.