We were wrong in our analysis earlier today. The Arab and Muslim groups did not even manage a few hundred protestors at the White House today -- the number was closer to a few dozen at most, including the handful of fanatical bearded and side-curled Naturei Karta Jews who are encouraged by these groups to show up these days.
After decades of organizing, the expenditure of many millions, the Gulf War, the destruction of Lebanon and now Iraq, and two Intifadas, there is still no real opposition to Israeli policies and power as well as to the overwhelming presence of the Israeli-Jewish lobby in Washington. The co-opted Arab and Muslim groups have hardly any credibility except with each other and with the controlled Arab media that fronts for them; and that's why so few people are willing to involve themselves in things these groups do.
The situation in this crucial city of Washington when it comes to Arab, Muslim, and Jewish opposition to Israeli policies is actually worse than ever. Though there are many Jewish AmericanS, especially among the intellectuals, who oppose what the Israelis are doing, they have no effective or even visible organization to represent them. When it comes to Arabs and Muslims, the same Arab "client regimes" that are so tied to the U.S. now rely on a couple of organizations to front for them. The Arab American Institute (AAI headed by the notoriously despised Jim Zogby) and the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC headed by the Maksouds, Clovis a former Arab League Ambassador) are used to co-opt and control Arab Americans; and the American Muslim Council (AMC), the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), and less importantly the Muslim Student Association (MSA), are employed to do the same with Muslim Americans.
And so the protests against Sharon on his first visit to the USA as Israeli Prime Minister, coming at a time when things are worse than ever for the occupied and dispossessed Palestinians, have been unimportant and pathetic. If anything the Israelis must be further encouraged to find that even now there is no serious opposition in the U.S. to what they are doing and to their having elected a man many consider a war-criminal to be Prime Ministership.
Meanwhile, Sharon is wasting no time preparing to take further actions to enforce Israel's will with the Palestinians and in the region. By all reports his meetings with U.S. officials are detailed and intense. He is in the process of getting the new American Administration's OK for what he plans to do. The first article below is from the right-wing Israeli news agency, Arutz 7; the second from the liberal newspaper Ha'aretz:
[Artuz7, Israel, 20 March]: Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is set to begin the most important part of his visit to the United States early this evening [Israel time] when he meets with President George W. Bush. Five hours have been set aside for the leaders and their staffs to meet, including an hour in which Sharon and Bush will meet alone.
Arutz-7's Yedidya Atlas, covering Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's visit in Washington, D.C., reports that Sharon's meeting with US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld yesterday "took place in a warm and friendly atmosphere."
The two discussed the growth of the terrorism threat to Middle East and global stability. "Most of the wars in the Middle East began because of terrorism," Mr. Sharon said, reminding Secretary Rumsfeld that official PA elements are directly involved in terrorism attacks. Sharon noted proof of the PA's direct involvement from recent events. The Hebrew edition of Ha'aretz reported today that an hour before Sunday's mortar attack on Kibbutz Nachal Oz (east of Gaza, within pre-1967 Israel), the Palestinians issued a call to their forces to take cover because "an Israeli action is expected." The IDF assumes that the leadership of the Palestinian Authority was actively or passively involved in preparations for the attack. (IMRA notes that this item was not reported in the English edition of Ha'aretz.)
While the Prime Minister again declared his willingness to negotiate with Arafat and make every effort to achieve peace, Mr. Sharon reiterated: "One thing must be clear: There is no possibility at all that we will negotiate under the threat of terror and violence... We want to reach peace, but we must first restore the quiet. We are interested in stability, but there is one thing we will not sacrifice for stability, and that is our lives... It is the basic right of every nation to defend herself." Rumsfeld told Sharon, "Israel is a small country, and you cannot allow yourselves to make big mistakes."
Following the meeting with President Bush, Prime Minister Sharon will depart for New York. He will meet there with UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan, with whom he will raise the matter of the abducted Israelis in Lebanon.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon addressed the AIPAC conference in Washington yesterday, saying, "Jerusalem belongs to all the Jewish people - we in Israel are only custodians of the city. Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, the holiest site to the Jewish people, is something you should stand up and speak out about. Jerusalem will remain united under the sovereignty of Israel - forever." He omitted this last sentence in his first speech as Prime Minister in the Knesset two weeks ago. Sharon's aides in Washington say that he will make a similar declaration when he meets with U.S. President George Bush today.
The Prime Minister also told AIPAC, "I stand before you today first and foremost as a Jew. This strong Jewish identity is a central theme in my life and will be in carrying out my responsibilities as Prime Minister. I want to work to strengthen the relationship between Israel and Jews all over the world. I have established a national unity government to unite the people of Israel, but unity among Jews is vital worldwide. Unity is our source of strength."
He spoke of the need for Jewish-Zionist education, and called on Jews in U.S. to immigrate to Israel: "We need all of you in Israel..." The audience of hundreds of students and AIPAC supporters rapturously applauded this and many other statements by Sharon.
The Prime Minister expressed support for the Administration's refusal to invite Arafat for talks until he calls off the violence against Israel.
Some elements in the State Department are taking a different stance, claiming that it is better to maintain a dialogue with Arafat rather than leave him "out of the loop." The Israeli position is that Arafat will be more likely to put an end to the violence if he understands that the international community will not tolerate it.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell also addressed the annual AIPAC conference in Washington yesterday, and said, "We recognize that Israel lives in a very dangerous neighborhood. We will look for ways to strengthen and expand our valuable strategic cooperation with Israel so we can preserve Israel's qualitative military edge and help manage the dangers it confronts.
Our collaboration in missile defense is one prominent area that comes to mind in this regard..." He also called on both parties to end violence, but in a veiled rebuke to the Palestinians, Powell said, "Leaders must denounce violence, strip it of legitimacy... Turning to the United States or other outside parties to pressure one or another party or impose a settlement is not the answer."
Prime Minister Sharon, in his meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, raised the issue of the abducted and missing Israelis in Lebanon. Powell said that he was also personally moved by the matter, and promised Sharon that he would address it.
[WASHINGTON - Ha'aretz - 20 March]: The State Department's top Middle East experts are urging that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat be invited to Washington because it is better to maintain a dialogue rather than leave him "out of the loop."
Meanwhile, Ariel Sharon, on his first visit to Washington as prime minister, has been emphasizing in talks with U.S. officials that Arafat is in control of the violence in the territories, and without an end to the violence he won't negotiate with him.
Sharon will see President George Bush today in a meeting that includes lunch.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, in a speech to the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) departed from his prepared text to say the Americans want to hear from "all leaders" in the region, another indication that Washington will not be freezing out Arafat. Already in line for visits to Washington are Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah II.
Sources in the prime minister's entourage said yesterday they are still waiting for a positive sign from Arafat that would make a meeting between him and Sharon possible. A source said "it's important that such a meeting should have results" and added that a condemnation of terrorism from Arafat would help.
In meetings with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and CIA chief George Tenet, Sharon said that Israel is very interested in regional stability "but not at the price of Israeli security." He explained to them his plan for "first, an end to the violence," and then a series of negotiations aimed at creating a long-term interim agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
Greeted at the Pentagon by a 19-gun salute, signifying that it was a working visit, the prime minister met first with Rumsfeld and then with Tenet.
For years virtually persona non grata in Washington, due to his role in both Israel's settlement policy in the territories, and the Lebanon war, Sharon's welcome in Washington was described by members of his entourage as warm "with the Americans going out of their way for the prime minister."
He emphasized in his talks with Rumsfeld that terrorism is the central destabilizing factor in the Middle East, but he sought to dissuade the Americans from making any linkage between the Gulf confrontation with Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He pointed to the drive-by shooting attack south of Jerusalem yesterday as an example of the terrorism sponsored by the Palestinian Authority, but he stopped short of asking the U.S. to put the PA on the list of states that sponsor terrorism. "That's for the Americans to decide."
After his meeting with Rumsfeld, sources in Sharon's entourage said the two countries share the same view of the PA's role in the violence of the last six months.
Rumsfeld, who brought his deputy Paul Wolfowitz to the meeting, heard Sharon explain that Israel and the U.S. share the same common threats in the region - from Iraq and Iran, two anti-American states seeking missile capabilities. "We can do a lot together. We share common interests and common dangers," Sharon told them.
Over lunch today Bush will hear the prime minister recap much of what he told Rumsfeld, Tenet, and a convention of the AIPAC lobby, last night. In a speech to the AIPAC gathering, Sharon went out of his way to emphasize his "commitment to protecting a united Jerusalem, with the Temple Mount in its center, under Israeli sovereignty forever."
In his inaugural speech in the Knesset, Sharon left out that promise, prompting speculation he might be considering a deal with the Palestinians in Jerusalem.
He told the AIPAC convention "restoring security and regional stability are the precondition" for the success of the diplomatic process. And he called for U.S.-Israeli cooperation to contribute to the restoration of regional stability. He described his peace plan as a two-stage process.
First, restoring security and quiet, with decisive action against terror, in a combined effort by Israel and the PA, while at the same time taking immediate steps to ease conditions for the Palestinian population.
Secondly, once the violence, ceases, Sharon proposes negotiations based on a multi-stage program to reach a long term interim agreement for non-belligerency.
Other issues on Sharon's agenda for the meeting with the president include the missing MIAs in Lebanon and clemency for Jonathan Pollard. He is not expected, at this early stage in the relationship between the new administration and his new government, to ask for any specific aid from the U.S., other than overall security cooperation.
Bush is expected to call on Sharon to moderate Israel's pressure on the
Palestinians, and on the Palestinian Authority, lest it force the collapse
of the Palestinian government. The administration is in touch with Arab
allies throughout the region, seeking ways to prevent an extreme anti-Israel
decision next week at the Arab summit in Amman.