July 20, 2006
Subject: The American National Interest
From: PLO Mission Washington, DC
The American National Interest
The late Senator Patrick Moynihan is known to have said that "an election year is rarely America's finest hour". I do not remember in what context he made that statement and I am sure he would not have been happy at my using it in my way but we obviously are in an "election year".
Throughout the years, some politicians have grown accustomed in campaigning more in Tel Aviv than in Tennessee, more in Beir Sheba than in Boston, more in Jerusalem than in Georgia but this time they seem not to have well calibrated their message because American public opinion is showing signs of awakening to the human tragedies tormenting the Middle East. As an indicator, The Washington Post undertook an on-line poll three weeks ago that revealed that 64% disapproved the Israeli incursions in Gaza and only 36% approved those incursions.
I personally believe that AIPAC, the official pro-Israeli lobby in Washington, in spite of all appearances, is no more in its golden era and that for 4 reasons:
1- The "monopoly" of representation of the American Jewish community by AIPAC is increasingly challenged within the community;
2- An important segment of the Israeli political establishment is increasingly uncomfortable with AIPAC and this goes back to the late Prime Minister Ishak Rabin- because of its constant support for the Israeli "maximalist" preference not because it is desirable but simply because it is "do-able" on Capitol Hill;
3- Within the American Administration there is an increasing irritation with the excesses of AIPAC and the trial case of the two senior officials for espionage is one of its manifestations;
4- Within American public opinion, there is a growing allergy for the enormous power of lobbies and interest groups in general.
The last two days, as though somebody has pushed a button somewhere, all American newspapers, national or local, have been flooded with op-ed pieces defending Israeli behavior, explaining how Israel has regained its "utility and function" in American strategy in defense of "Western Civilization" and advocating a delay in any diplomatic initiative to give more time to the Israeli army.
In this moment in particular, diplomacy should not be allowed to be "the continuation of war by other means". On the eve of a trip to the region by the Secretary of State, one would hope that the following elements will be taken in consideration:
- That history - or the history of this crisis did not begin with the capture of the Israeli soldiers;
- That the root of the problem remains the endless military occupation of Palestinian and Arab territories and the insatiable Israeli territorial appetite;
- That over 10,000 Palestinian and Arab political prisoners are held in Israeli jails, most of whom never engaged in military activity legitimate or otherwise meaning that every city, village and refugee camp have many detainees kept endlessly behind bars;
- That the USA is committed to Israeli's existence but not to Israel's expansion;
- That the Arab world - from Morocco to Muscat in Oman - have offered Israel and the world a historical compromise: if Israel withdraws out of its 1967 expansion, Arab countries are ready to recognize its pre-1967 existence;
- That it is the absence of a credible peace process that allows for those chronic uncontrolled escalations;
- That throughout the years, Israeli intransigence had defied, delegitmized, and destabilized moderate Arab governments and allowed the emergence and the growth of radical movements;
- That the unresolved nature of the Palestinian problem and the perceived American complacency with Israeli preferences have globally poisoned international relations;
- That Middle East peace can only be achieved with the active and assertive imput by third parties and mainly the USA.
In our contemporary world, non-alignment should be what characterizes American foreign policy. America is a fascinating society, a nation of nations. It is the world en miniature. By aligning itself on one belligerent actor in a regional conflict, the USA not only offends, alienates and antagonizes all the other players but it also antagonizes and ghettoizes a domestic component of its own social fabric: the Arab-American and the Muslim Americans.
One can only hope that Dr. Rice's visit to the region will be a departure from decades of the "self-inflicted impotence" of the only remaining superpower and that she will set ambitious goals for her diplomatic initiative. America showing leadership and "waging peace" will rally the world around it, those who belong to "western civilization" and all the others too.
Decision-makers in Washington have always had a choice between a foreign policy that will make American loved and respected around the world or a foreign policy that will make it feared and hated.
We in the Arab world have no problem with American values and American principles. All we yearn for is to see America reconcile its power and its principles.
Dr. Rice, it is in your power today to make America loved and respected. Bon Voyage.
Head of the PLO Mission