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
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
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.