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
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
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?
First published in the December 15th issue of the The American Conservative.
Reprinted by permission. Pat Buchanan, advisor to three presidents,
is editor of The American Conservative and hosts MSNBC's Buchanan & Press.