Israel is a “thunderously failed reality” that “rests on a scaffolding of corruption, and on foundations of oppression and injustice.” Were these words spoken by
an American leader, he would be denounced as an anti-Semite. But these are the words of a former speaker of the Israeli Knesset who cries for his country. “The countdown to the end of Israeli society has begun,” writes Avraham Burg, “the end of the Zionist enterprise is already on our doorstep.”
“Israel, having ceased to care about the children of the Palestinians, should not be surprised when they come washed in hatred and blow themselves up in the centers of Israeli escapism.” Burg implores “Diaspora Jews” to “speak out.” To little avail.
Why? Why, when a Knesset member is unintimidated, are we so silent? Why, when Ariel Sharon is dragging America’s good name through the mud and blood of Ramallah and Jenin, are we so tongue-tied? Did not Burke instruct us, “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards out of men”?
Israelis are speaking truth to power. Army Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon has told Israel’s press it was Sharon who undermined Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. Twenty-seven Israeli Air Force pilots have refused to obey “immoral orders” for air strikes on “populated civilian centers.”
Five hundred Israeli soldiers have refused to take part in the repression. Four ex-chiefs of Shin Beit—Ami Ayalon, Carmi Gillon, Yaakov Peri, Avraham Shalom—have charged Sharon with leading Israel to ruin. “We are heading downhill toward near-catastrophe,” says Peri, “If we go on living by the sword, we will continue to wallow in the mud and destroy ourselves.”
Ayalon and Palestinian academic Sari Nusseibeh have issued a declaration of principles calling for Israel’s withdrawal to her 1967 borders. Ex-Justice minister Yossi Beilin has negotiated a detailed accord with a former Palestinian minister. Colin Powell wrote a letter of support. Where is George W. Bush?
Why is he silent when Sharon has led us into a cul-de-sac from which he cannot find an exit? Why is our president letting Sharon ravage what is left of our reputation in the Arab world? Sharon promised peace and security. He has delivered war and hatred. Over 700 Israelis are dead. Some 2,500 Palestinians have died, including hundreds of children. Scores of thousands have been wounded. Homes and olive groves have been destroyed.
Yet still Sharon approves new settlements without a peep of protest from President Bush. When Howard Dean suggested that U.S. Mideast policy needed to be more “even-handed,” he was warned by Democratic bosses never to use that term again. Why are our politicians so craven, so terrified of an Israeli lobby that does not speak for Israel, let alone for America?
Israel is in an existential crisis. Its options for survival are narrowing by the month. It can push all the Palestinians into Jordan, a monstrous crime of ethnic cleansing some on the Israeli Right are advocating. It can wall off Israel and Jerusalem and leave the Palestinians in a truncated, tiny state that will become an eternal spawning pool of terror, as Sharon is now doing.
Or it can give the Palestinians what Oslo, Camp David, Taba, the Saudi Plan, and “road map” promised: a homeland.
If Israel is to remain democratic and Jewish, she must either let the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem go—or annex them all and grant Palestinians full rights as citizens in a binational state. Are Israeli Jews willing to practice in their country what American Jews preach in ours, equality and multiculturalism?
Israel is free to choose her course. But America needs a Middle East policy Made in the USA, not in Tel Aviv—or at AIPAC or AEI. President Bush should restate U.S. support for the survival of Israel but also register America’s disgust with Sharon’s duplicitous policy of creeping annexationism and repression, while talking of peace.
Sharon should be told to vacate every settlement and outpost put up since Bush took office and to tear down any part of his new wall that encroaches on the land of the coming nation of Palestine. Else, American aid stops.
If this undermines Sharon, so much the better. If we are to preach democracy to the Arabs, let us also preach it to the regime that claims to be the only democracy in the region as it holds three million persecuted Palestinians in human bondage.
As Israel’s benefactor and guardian, we have a right to demand that our values be respected in her treatment of the Palestinians, that our vital interests always be kept in mind, as they have rarely been in 50 years.If Mr. Burg can stand up to Sharon, why cannot Mr. Bush?