The joint press conference held by the U.S. President Bush with the Israeli Prime Minister Sharon on April 14 generated a storm of reactions on the regional and international political scenes. Bush’s official statement was characterized by honesty and clarity. Bush declared an unprecedented new American position toward the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It went beyond the expectations of the Israeli right wing and strongly shocked the Arab leaders and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). Some people said it was similar to the Balfour Declaration, and the most pessimistic ones did not even expect Bush would so openly support Sharon’s policy based on undermining the political settlement and isolating and killing the Palestinian leadership. They did not expect he would ignore the Arab peoples’ interests.
In addition, the American president position surprised France, Russia and the majority of the European Union members and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Even the leaders who praised Sharon’s plan to unilaterally withdraw and remove the settlements from Gaza, on top of them British PM Tony Blair, could not support the new position, especially that:
First, it went over all the legal rules and bases and the political understandings on which the peace process is based, and which could have led to settlement of the conflict and stability in the region.
Second, Bush single-handedly decided of the fate of Palestinians, Arabs and the essential parties in the peace process. His stance was a great change in the U.S. policy toward the Palestinian-Israeli and Arab-Israeli conflicts. He allowed Israel to withdraw unilaterally, knowing that the American administration had formerly refused that Israel changes anything in the borders of Jerusalem.
Third, President Bush surpassed the American position that considered settlements as illegal and obstacles to the peace process. He legitimized the settlement principle and gave Israel the right to keep settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem. He allowed building more settlements for the needs of the next generations.
Fourth, Bush surpassed the resolutions of international legitimacy related to the Palestinian refugees’ rights and removed the UN 194 General Assembly’s resolution about the right of return and compensation for the refugees. Bush said he wants to guarantee the Jewish aspect of the Israeli state, knowing that no one on the Arab peace scene wants to destroy Israel.
Fifth, Bush blessed Sharon’s policy that is based on killing and destruction. He personally pledged to guarantee Israel’s security and strengthen it. I think that the American administration members were honest when they said the Israeli government did not notify them it would assassinate Dr. Rantissi. In fact, assassinations no longer require authorization; for Bush’s silent is a green light.
Hence, Bush has given what he does not have to whom does not deserve; just like Balfour did 87 years ago. Bush violated the international legitimacy and the partnership in the peace process. He ignored Prince Abdullah’s initiative, and the Arab leaders’ initiatives who visited Washington and discussed this issue with him.
No doubt that Bush executed his friend Sharon’s demand. The only direct result of such a random position is to weaken the peace partisans among Palestinians and Israelis and ignoring the efforts they deployed.
Bush’s speech is nothing but undermining the peace initiatives and authorizing the killing. The direct result of Bush’s promise is the U.S. losing its honest mediator role. Bush closed the door to negotiations and ended the role of the Quartet. This turnaround in the American position pushes the Arabs to ask: what to do? I think that accepting the Bush Declaration puts an end to the Palestinian rights. The Palestinian retaliation to the American-Israeli historic deal should be away from military action, which Sharon loves and excels at.