Open Letter to President Bush

Dear President Bush,

This is to assist your reflections on your return from the Middle East. I am writing in the belief that you do want to stop the countdown to Armageddon but don’t have the courage to do what is necessary.

An end to the conflict in and over Palestine on the basis of a viable two-state solution was possible so far as the vast majority of Palestinians and other Arabs and most Muslims everywhere were concerned from the end of1979, more than a quarter of a century ago. It follows, again so far as the vast majority of Palestinians and other Arabs and most Muslims everywhere are concerned, that, before you leave office, you could make for yourself a place in history as the greatest of all peacemakers. But only if you are prepared to use the leverage you have to require Israel to end its occupation of allthe Arab land it grabbed in 1967. The following is some advice about why you should and how you could use the leverage you have.

The key to understanding is in an observation made to me in private conversation by the man who is today Israel’s President, Shimon Peres.

In early 1980 when he made the observation I am about to quote, he was the leader of Israel’s Labour Party, then the main opposition to Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s governing Likud Party. Peres was hoping, as was President Carter, that he would win Israel’s next election and deny Begin, the most successful terrorist leader of modern history, a second term in office. At the time (and as I describe in Chapter 35 of my book Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews), I was preparing to act as the linkman in a secret and exploratory dialogue between Peres and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat.

During a one-to-one conversation, I used the term “Israel lobby” (meaning the organisers of American support for Israel right or wrong). Peres interrupted me. “It’s notan Israel lobby”, he said sternly and with a hint of despair. “It’s a Likud lobby.” Pause. “And that’s my problem.”

The point Peres was making was that the policies the lobby in America was pushing the U.S. administration to adopt were not in Israel’s best interests. (Today it can be said, as Mearshimer and Walt do say, that they are also not in America’s best interests, if they ever were).

At the time the lobby was mobilising its many stooges in Congress to prevent President Carter bringing the PLO into the peace process. Carter was well aware that, by the end of 1979, the pragmatic Arafat had persuaded the Palestine National Council, the highest decision-making body on the Palestinian side, to back his policy of politics and (until then) unthinkable compromise with Israel. It required the Palestinians to be ready to make peace with Israel when it withdrew from all the land it occupied in 1967 to make the space for a Palestinian mini-state on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with Jerusalemthe capital of two states.

This Arafat policy was initially unthinkable to most Palestinians because it required them not only to legitimise Israel’s existence (in international law only the dispossessed Palestinians can do that). It also required them to renounce their claim to 78% of their land and from which they (three-quarters of them) were ethnically cleansed in 1948. And that’s why it took Arafat six long years to sell the idea of unthinkable compromise with Israel to his Fatah leadership colleagues and then the PNC. When the PNC vote was eventually taken, in 1979, it was 296 forArafat’s policy of politics and compromise and four against. Shortly after the vote a beaming Arafat said to me: “It is a miracle. No more this silly talk of driving the Jews into the sea. We have turned our people around.” (To prepare the ground on his side for peace on terms which any rational government and people in Israel would have accepted with relief, Arafat had risked everything, his life as well as his crediblity with his own people).

Arafat was then at the height of his powers and from that moment on, as President Carter k

new, there could have been successful negotiations for peace based on a genuine and viable two-state solution.

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