January 31, 2001 Special Dispatch No. 183

Arafat's Advisor on the Palestinian Expectations of President Bush

January 31, 2001
Palestinians | Special Dispatch No. 183

Arafat's advisor and the editor of the PA affiliated daily Al-Ayyam, Akram Haniyya, wrote an editorial on the day of President Bush's inauguration.[1] Following are excerpts from the article:

"From today on, Washington will be a new city as far as Palestinian officials are concerned... With Republican President George Bush as the White House's new tenant, Palestinian officials will be dealing with a new group of faces in the State Department, the National Security Council, and the White House."

"The Palestinians are undoubtedly relieved at the sight of the members of the American peace team leaving their positions; certainly no one will shed a tear at their departure. Even if, from a procedural standpoint, the momentum of the peace process loses the vitality of President Clinton, the peace process will only benefit from the departure of this team, which is characterized by its absolute loyalty to the policy of Israel's governments. In addition to this loyalty, a few of them excel at shallowness and ideological hollowness."

"Perhaps the early welcome given to the Bush Administration by many Arab analysts has raised unrealistic hopes and expectations from the White House's new tenant; perhaps these expectations were strengthened with the dispute following the US elections, in which the Jewish lobby stood by Al Gore and gave him 80% of the American Jewish vote; perhaps [Arab] expectations were raised because Bush did not appoint any Jews to his government. However, all of these expectations ignore the nature of the American Administration and the limitations put on it. These expectations do not give the proper weight to the complex nature of the American political decision-making process."

"However it is legitimate and even necessary to make the Bush Administration understand that there are Palestinian and Arab expectations that he must address, especially since President Clinton took steps on his final day [testifying to his] favoritism for Israel, when he decided to increase American military aid to Israel and to let the Israelis purchase the most advanced American fighters."

"As Palestinians, we must aspire and demand that the American policy exhibit three new characteristics regarding the Palestinian issue:"

"First of all, in the days of George Bush, Sr., Secretary of State James Baker often used the term 'The supreme American national interests.' The Palestinians ask of the Bush Administration nothing more than to be loyal to those same interests. Any objective analysis leads to one truth, and that is a peace based on justice and the implementation of the resolutions of international legitimacy as a principle guarantee for what Washington sees as its strategic interests in the Middle East."

"We believe that one of the primary lessons that the Intifada has brought to the surface... is that those who made plans and frameworks for the future of the region in the past two decades, while ignoring the Palestinian element, have basically been building sand castles."

"The Intifada has proven, for those neither blind nor deaf, that the Palestinian Problem has great influence on the Arab peoples. The Intifada has succeeded in recreating the consciousness of an entire generation who have lately been brought up without any national memory. We believe that objective minds in Washington must internalize this lesson, after seeing in the past months American embassies closing in many Arab and Islamic capitals; after witnessing the demonstrations of rage against American policy and products; and after seeing the U.S.S. Cole being blown up in the port of Aden."

"The stones of the Intifada exposed the fragility of what the US saw as a successful model for a regional plan in the Middle East. It once again raised the obvious question that Washington has tried to make disappear."

"Rational American policy 'that will save Israel from itself,' as US Deputy Secretary of State George Ball said several decades ago, is a matter that serves the supreme American interests; an American policy restraining Israeli extremism and expansionism, helps the stability of the Arab region, in which most of the countries have good relations with Washington."

"Our experience is that American positions that do not win Israel's sympathy are not only necessary but also possible. When Reagan decided in December 1988, towards the end of his term... to talk with the PLO, we did not hear serious protests from members of the Israeli lobby in Congress; when James Baker threatened Shamir's Israel and forced it to recognize the formula of 'land for peace', and when Bush Sr.'s Administration froze its loan guarantees to Israel to protest the construction of settlements, there was no earthquake on Capitol Hill. The Bush Administration waved the banner of 'The supreme American national interests' that the current American politicians will find it difficult to oppose when the Administration is serious about it."

"Secondly, Clinton's peace cabinet made its biggest mistakes when it tried to negate the source of authority that was approved both by the Americans and the international community for a settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Therefore, the Palestinians expect George Bush Jr.'s Administration to adhere to the source of authority that Bush Sr. set down as a basis for convening the Madrid Conference which began the current peace process."

"What went on during and after the Camp David summit was an attempt to shatter the source of authority manifested in the resolutions of international legitimacy and the principle of 'land for peace.' This was a knock-out for the American trustworthiness in the region and limited the American ability to be an honest broker. The negation of the source of authority is a negation of the terms for a just and lasting peace in the region."

"Thirdly, the Palestinians expect the sensitivities of the Bush Administration to invest additional efforts to understand the Palestinians and to relate to them. This means, primarily, getting rid of all the Orientalist elements 'in the style of Lawrence [of Arabia]' who apparently excites the imaginations of American politicians about the Middle East. This point of view ignores the facts and considerations of reality, and also contains patronizing and racist elements which poison the atmosphere and neutralize the opportunity to develop healthy and correct relations."

"Primarily, we expect the key people in the Bush Administration to understand that the lives of the Palestinians are also dear and valuable, and that they have the right to security just as the Israelis do. We expect that the Administration will have the sensitivity to understand the meaning of the Palestinian Naqbah [the 1948 defeat], and the tragedy and suffering of Palestinians, in the Diaspora and on Palestinian land; we expect them to value the scope of the historical concessions that the Palestinians initiated for the sake of peace in the region. We expect to see them honoring the fact that there is a Palestinian public opinion representing a civil society with rich political experience and that this society delegated [authority] to its chosen leadership [while] adhering to its basic national rights."

"These three elements were missing in the Clinton Administration... "

"I am not worried about the possibility that the Bush Administration will not take interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, because I believe that the heat of the conflict will impose itself on Bush's agenda. I also don't expect that Washington, with its new faces, will have a completely new policy. But we say that an intensive Arab effort can assist in forming a new policy for Washington."

[1] Al-Ayyam (PA), January 20, 2001.

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