George Bush's "vision" for Mideast peace is a dangerous step away from a legitimate contribution towards building a just and lasting peace for the Palestinians and Israeli people. Rather, it justifies the continuation of the very strategies that have led to the current, horrific situation.
President Bush has made his position perfectly clear: rather than seek out a path to peace as any sort of "honest broker" between Israelis and Palestinians, he has chosen to align himself with the most extreme, anti-peace, and pro-expansionist forces within Israel, namely, the government of Ariel Sharon. Because the Sharon government advocates beating Palestinians into submission, destroying their physical and social infrastructure, and confiscating more land for Israeli use (he is now advocating permanently acquiring 20% of the West Bank along the Jordan River), Bush's "vision" will lead only to heightened conflict and increasing deaths of innocents in both Israel and the Occupied Territories.
Ariel Sharon has made it clear, through action and words, that he is not interested in peace, not interested in allowing Palestinians a viable, let alone sovereign, state of their own in which to live. Since his election in February 2001, the Sharon government has done everything it can to destroy any prospects of peaceful negotiations, and has provoked groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade into deadly attacks against Israeli civilians, which Not In My Name categorically condemns. Not In My Name has consistently argued that such attacks can never be justified, morally or politically, and must be considered criminal acts.
While Not In My Name condemns Sharon's strategy as both morally and legally bankrupt, President Bush's "vision" justifies and rewards it. It places all blame on the Palestinian people-a people who have lived under Israeli military occupation for over 35 years-and requires them to change their leadership. Such a demand, coming from the country that has supplied Israel with the economic and military might needed to maintain occupation, is both hypocritical and illegitimate.
Ariel Sharon, who began murdering Palestinians in the Kibya massacre of 1953, has nurtured a burning hatred for, and open desire to kill, Yasir Arafat ever since his disastrous invasion of Lebanon in 1982. And now Bush's "vision" gives him a green light to re-occupy the West Bank and further devastate the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children.
At this very moment, Israelis live in fear of the next suicide bombing, and have been dying in ever-increasing numbers. Israelis also know that waves of offensives against an entire Palestinian society will not end terror attacks. Israel's own Minister of Defense, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, has admitted as much, acknowledging that IDF offensives in the West Bank and Gaza only increase the likelihood of more attacks. And Ariel Sharon knows this, too; it is part of his strategy. George Bush's "vision" accepts it, as well.
At this very moment, Palestinians live under the shadow of Israel Defense Forces tanks, attack helicopters and F16s. In every major town and village in the West Bank (and soon, Gaza) curfews make it impossible to buy food, seek medical care, reunite families or work. Palestinians die on an almost daily basis, either due to deprivation or direct IDF attacks. Such actions, all forms of collective punishment, are banned under international law. But Bush's "vision" supports them.
Under these terrifying conditions, President Bush's call for vast, sweeping reforms in a Palestinian society that he has helped to destroy, while calling on Israel to do nothing but continue to "defend itself" is deeply cynical, insulting, and divorced from reality.
There can never be security and peace for Israelis and Palestinians until all of the settlements in the Occupied Territories are abandoned and until the Israeli military is withdrawn to the 1967 borders. No matter how many times President Bush clicks his heels together, the harsh reality of occupation will remain, and with it the deepening violence.
It is time for the United States to change course dramatically. It is time to end uncritical support of Israel. It is time to stop pretending to be working for peace while giving Israel $3 billion of military equipment each year, much of it used to attack every aspect of Palestinian society.