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Powell Throws in the Towel
by Aaron Goldstein
10 December 2003Colin Powell

By meeting with the architects of the Geneva Initiative, Colin Powell has effectively undermined both the Road Map and Israel’s democratically elected government.

Imagine the reaction from the White House and the State Department if, prior to our military intervention in Iraq, someone like Ramsey Clark (a former Attorney General under LBJ who has become a gadfly for such luminaries as International A.N.S.W.E.R. and the Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic) negotiated a peace treaty with Saddam Hussein!

The reaction would, of course, be one of outright condemnation and outrage.  It would be also illegal. It has been illegal for private American citizens to negotiate international treaties since 1799, when George Logan attempted to negotiate a peace and land purchase agreement with France. Hence the Logan Act.   

This principle has been a cornerstone of American foreign policy for over 200 years.  Yet this past weekend, Secretary of State Colin Powell basically said the hell with the Logan Act when he met with the negotiators of the Geneva Initiative, including former Israeli Justice Minister Yossei Beillin and former Palestinian Authority Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo. Beillin is not currently a member of the Israeli Knesset and Rabbo has no sway with either Arafat or Prime Minister Querie. Powell has effectively undermined both the Road Map and Israel’s democratically elected government by meeting with the architects of the Geneva Initiative.  Granted, Powell later said that it was unlikely that the Bush Administration would use the Geneva Initiative as a model for its involvement in spurring a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.  Of course, it begs the question: why did Powell waste everyone’s time and meet with people who have neither legitimacy nor credibility in this matter? There is little reason to believe that Rabbo carries any weight in the Palestinian Authority.  As long as the Palestinian Authority funds museum exhibits at Bir Zeit University glorifying the Sbarro Pizzeria suicide bombing there is no reason to value the piece of paper on which Rabbo’s signature is written.

If Beillin or former Israeli Labor Party leader Amram Mitzna want to run the Geneva Initiative as a political platform in the next Israeli general election they are welcome to do so. If their platform appeals to a critical mass of Israelis then more power to them, and their platform will then become government policy. But given the harsh realities of broken promises by the Palestinians to stop terrorism that have resulted in broken lives for Israelis through suicide bombings and the constant threat of suicide bombings, there is little chance that the Geneva Initiative will resonate with the Israeli electorate.

Ariel Sharon became the first Israeli Prime Minister to win consecutive elections since Menachem Begin.  Israelis overwhelmingly rejected the wishful thinking of Mitzna, Beillin and the Labor Party.   Indeed, Beillin failed to win a seat in the Knesset.  Powell’s time would be better spent working with Sharon rather than against him.  President Bush has publicly called Sharon “a man of peace.”  Secretary Powell ought to treat Sharon as such.

Aaron Goldstein, a former member of the socialist New Democratic Party, writes poetry and has a chapbook titled Oysters and the Newborn Child: Melancholy and Dead Musicians. His poetry can be viewed on www.poetsforthewar.org.

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