Rachelle Marshall is a free-lance editor living in Stanford, CA. A member of the International Jewish Peace Union, she writes frequently on the Middle East.
The Palestinian vision of peace is an independent and viable Palestinian state on the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, living as an equal neighbor alongside Israel with peace and security for both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples... We seek only what the free world now enjoys and what Israel insists on for itself: the right to control our own destiny and to take our place among free nations.
--Yasser Arafat, op-ed article in The New York Times, Feb. 2.
I am very worried about this American debate. I think this discussion about equating Arafat with terrorists is both inappropriate and stupid. It is a very dangerous policy.--Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh at a meeting of the European Union on Feb. 5.
Until George W. Bush became president, U.S. policymakers tried to preserve at least a semblance of balance on issues concerning the Middle East. Previous administrations gave unstinting support to Israel, but at the same time tried to maintain close ties with the moderate Arab nations that sold us their oil and used the revenue to buy our weapons. The Bush administration, in aligning itself with Israel more closely than any of its predecessors, has adopted a Middle East policy that lacks even the illusion of balance.
Shortly before Bush took office his future national security adviser Condoleezza Rice wrote in an article for Foreign Affairs, "This administration will proceed from the firm ground of the national interest, not from the interests of an illusory international community." During his first year in office Bush carried out Rice's pledge to go it alone by rejecting one international treaty after another and adopting a hands-off policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Immediately after Sept. 11, however, the administration veered sharply away from unilateralism and sought cooperation from Arab and Muslim nations, as well as from the Europeans, in the war on terrorism.
After the seeming victory of U.S. forces over the Taliban, however, a triumphant Bush returned to his original stance. In his State of the Union address in January he branded Iran, Iraq, and North Korea "an axis of evil" and warned that the United States would take pre-emptive action against them with or without international support.
CIA Director George Tenet soon enlarged the list of potential U.S. targets by adding Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Tenet said that although these groups did not necessarily have ties to al-Qaeda, "they have displayed anti-U.S. sentiments." In defining groups dedicated to ending Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza as terrorists or sponsors of terrorism, along with Iraq and Iran, the Bush administration declared that Israel's enemies were America's enemies as well, and that the United States, like Israel, will deal with them in whatever way it considers necessary--regardless of international opinion.
Bush's speech immediately provoked concern in Europe and in Arab and Muslim nations. French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine called Bush's policy "simplistic," and British and German officials said their countries would not participate in a U.S. attack on Iraq, since they saw no connection between Iraq and the events of Sept. 11. Arab leaders worried that an attempt to oust Saddam Hussain would result in a fragmented Iraq and create shock waves throughout neighboring states.
Despite such criticisms, Secretary of State Colin Powell told a congressional committee the next day that the United States was determined to bring about a "regime change" in Iraq even if it must do it alone, and he again accused Iran of sponsoring terrorism by sending arms to the Palestinians. Vice President Dick Cheney kept up the drumbeat in a Feb. 15 speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in which he called Iraq and Iran "dangerous adversaries" and, with no apparent irony, accused Iran of "trying to destroy the Middle East peace process. …