By William James Martin
Former President Jimmy Carter’s independent Middle East diplomacy is nothing less than a coup of the American foreign policy of the Bush administration.
Carter has now met twice with the representatives of Hamas including its head, Khalid Meshaal and has had one-on-one meetings with the heads of state of Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and with King Abdullah of Jordan . The Prime Minister of Israel, Edmund Olmert has refuse to meet with him.
In sharp contrast to President Bush and Condoleezza Rice, both of whom were near the mausoleum of Arafat in the Muqata in Ramallah, but ignored its presence, former President Carter laid a wreath a the tomb of Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat and apparently said a brief prayer.
Carter has called the Israeli/American policy of starvation a “crime”, he has observed that 30 to 40 Palestinians have been killed for every Israeli killed, as fact never spoken by an American politician or statesman, and rarely by any of the US news media. He said, “any side that kills innocent people is guilty of terrorism." That means that Israel is as guilty of terrorism as the Palestinians, and by implication, 30 to 40 times more guilty, a very radical notion for an American statesman, and completely unprecedented, but certainly true of the past month during which time, 120 Palestinians residents of Gaza were killed by the Israeli army within the space of two days.
Carter said, the Palestinians in Gaza were being “starved to death, receiving fewer calories per day than people in the poorest parts of Africa.”
“Its an atrocity what is being perpetuated as punishment on the people of Gaza. It’s a crime … I think it is an abomination that this continues to go on.”
Carter is now watching a society being abused and starved to death for their participation in a plebiscite the result of which was unwelcome to both Israel and the United States. Carter, who monitored the election in which Hamas gained the majority of seats, declared it to be completely fair, the fairest election in the Arab world, in fact, must have been as dismayed as anyone to see people punished for expressing their preference in a democratic election.
But the pattern was familiar. Carter had also monitored the election in Palestine in 1996 in which Arafat defeated a field of almost a dozens other candidates only to see the Bush administration isolate Arafat diplomatically and join Sharon in placing him under house arrest, a situation that prevailed until Arafat’s death.
Even more important than Carter’s statements, Carter has initiated a diplomacy which directly conflicts with and counters the American government’s policy, under George Bush, of isolating and ostracizing whatever political party the US and Israel consider to be their enemy, whether Iran or Hamas.
This is in some ways no less than a coup and an attempt to displace the entire Bush approach to its conduct for foreign policy and replace it with an approach that has been shown to have worked.
Not that anyone should feel sorry for that. It has been amply demonstrated that the Bush/Neocon approach to foreign policy has been a colossal failure leaving in its wake millions of dead and displaced, starvation and suffering in the territories, and failure to reach any of Bush’s stated objectives – like a Palestinian state by 2005 as the end product of the Roadmap, like establishing a placid democratic government in Iraq that contributed to American and Israeli security, and democratizing the entire Middle East. Instead, Bush has brought us endless war and conflict of which hardly anyone knows how to slow its momentum.
A radical change in American Middle East policy occurred in 1981 when Ronald Reagan replaced Jimmy Carter as president. A Middle East policy which checked Israel’s expansions in Lebanon and colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem was replaced by a passive policy and by a president with no knowledge of or interest in the Middle East . Reagan reposed, and some in his administration winked, as Israel launched an invasion of Lebanon, in 1982,which resulted in 20,000 Lebanese dead, Israel’s shelling West Beirut all summer long, the occupying an Arab capital, and the orchestrating of the massacre in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps where possibly as many as 2000 defenseless Palestinian refugees were massacred. Within a short time, Islamic terrorists bombed the American embassy in Beirut killing 63 American, mostly CIA and American diplomats. This was the first terrorist bombing of an American target. Then, some months later, a truck loaded with explosives slammed into the American Marine barracks near the Beirut airport killing 243 American soldiers.
Osama bin Laden stated, in a message to the American people in October of 2004, “As I watched the destroyed towers in Lebanon , it occurred to me punish the unjust the same way [and] to destroy the towers in America so it could taste some of what we are tasting and to stop killing our children and women.”
Carter watched painfully, no doubt, as his activist diplomacy was replaced, by the Reagan team, with a policy of effectively, if not intentionally, giving Israel free reign. And during the Bush administration, Carter has complained of Bush’s inactivity and of the fact that there has been no negotiation, between Israel and the Palestinians, for the first seven years of the Bush tenure. Eventually the Annapolis conference was convened between the Israelis and Fatah under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, but with no presidential leadership, negotiations are taking place only nominally with Israel continuing its settlement expansions and destruction or confiscation of Palestinian resources.
The attack on the WTC and the Pentagon on 9/11 was good news for Israel, as former Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu recently observed, as Ariel Sharon convinced Bush that both the US and Israel were fighting the same battle, that terrorism was the common enemy, and that Israel’s enemies were America’s enemies.
The subsequent Bush years evolved into an American foreign policy indistinguishable from Israel’s, and American resources, capital and personnel were placed at the disposal of Israel strategists. The aim and focus of the planners in the Pentagon and the White House became blurred as they were some of the same people who, just a few years earlier, as members of the American Enterprise Institute and other think tanks financed by Israel and charged with providing policy analysis for Israel instituted plans which were identical to those provided previously to the government of Israel. Those plans included the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq which had been a long standing objective of Israel strategists. The Saddam Hussein government of Iraq had long been deemed to have been a regional threat to Israel, but it was not a threat to the United States, though Bush convinced the American people otherwise and also that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.
The Bush policies have been shown to be bankrupt, and Carter is replacing them with an approach that has been shown to have worked.
-William James Martin teaches in the Department of Mathematics at the University of New Orleans. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org