Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Bush's Historic Opportunity in Europe: The Middle East Connection

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Bush's Historic Opportunity in Europe: The Middle East Connection

Article excerpt

Hundreds of thousands of people bravely take to the streets of ancient capitals from Poland to Bulgaria, shouting for democracy and freedom. And instead of crushing the protestors, the communist rulers of these states themselves capitulate. Walls literally come tumbling down. Why now?

Personalities have a lot to do with historic change, and Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union's remarkable and charismatic leader, clearly encouraged the tide in Eastern Europe with his calls for openness and change at home. In admitting the failure of the Soviet system, he invited revolution within the Soviet empire and may have inadvertently inspired tumult even in China.

And an early, major catalyst for all of this may have been the Palestinian uprising in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza. The Palestinian intifada began Dec. 9, 1987 and, despite the toll in human life -- more than 600 Palestinians have been killed and tens of thousands injured by Israeli troops -- the protest continues unabated.

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, many of them children, have taken to the streets, shouting for freedom and democracy, throwing rocks, burning tires, establishing roadblocks, conducting boycotts -- demanding an end to Israel's military control over the lives and property of nearly two million people.

The Poles, Czechs, East Germans, Hungarians, Bulgarians and Soviets surely watched day by day with admiration and envy the relentless Palestinian movement for freedom. And perhaps these people, yearning like the Palestinians for democracy and control over their own destinies, said to themselves, "If the Palestinians are brave enough to take to the streets and demand democracy and freedom, why not us?"

One may argue over "Why now?" but the fact of revolutionary change is unchallenged.

And, suddenly, instead of rejoicing with East Germans liberated by the crumbling of the Berlin Wall, and other nationalities no longer confined by the Iron Curtain, some people worry about the consequences if the nations once restrained by the Warsaw Pact become integrated freely into a new Europe and the two Germanys become one.

Instead of wringing our hands, we should rejoice at having such challenges before us.

I have no crystal ball, but I see a tide of inevitable events. Palestinian statehood is inevitable. The only leaders who seem not to have grasped that certainty are Israel's Prime Minister Shamir and President Bush. The demise of the Warsaw Pact is also inevitable.

So is the reunification of Germany. It will happen just as rapidly as the German people themselves wish it to happen. Efforts by foreign governments to prevent union will create problems, not solve them.

Another certainty: When union occurs, the new Germany will become the super-power of Europe, in all aspects -- economic, monetary, political and military. It can no longer be expected to follow the political lead of France and England.

It is well to remember that NATO was originally created for two main purposes: It was to be an alliance against the Soviet Union, as well as an alliance against the Federal Republic of Germany. The sponsors of NATO, with the enthusiastic backing of most Germans, saw NATO as a system which would allay any external fears that the Federal Republic would raise again the specter of German nationalism. …

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