Whose road map to peace?: Bush or would be ethnic cleanser Benny Elon?
An Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz, is one of the few media outlets worldwide to focus on the effort to undermine the much-touted “road map” that Bush is throwing like a bone after a banquet to the family pet. The administration is touting this effort to give the appearance of the U.S. as an honest Middle East broker, but there’s just one problem: that dog won’t bark. The reason it won’t is that the Israeli right-wing won’t let it, nor will the American Likudniks in this country, who are far to the right of Ariel Sharon.
The former responded quickly to the Ameican initiative: neo-fascist National Union politician Benny Elon is on a tour of the United States, promoting his own ghastly program of ethnic cleansing as the only solution – one might even say the final solution – to Israel’s Palestinian problem. Final in the sense that the Elon plan, entitled “In the Wake of the War in Iraq – A Historic Opportunity for a Regional Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” calls for the uprooting and mass transfer of the Palestinians to “neighboring countries,” principally Jordan:
- “The international community will recognize the Hashemite Kingdom as the sole representative of the Palestinians, and will help it economically as it absorbs a limited number of refugees;
- “Israel will become sovereign over Judea, Samaria and Gaza, and the Arabs living there will be Jordanian citizens living under a form of autonomy to-be-determined;
- “The exchange of Jewish and Arab populations begun in 1948 will be completed …”
This isn’t some marginal figure in Israeli politics, but the Minister of Tourism speaking. That’s how far the Israeli political landscape has shifted toward the Twilight Zone: it’s as if President Bush had appointed Amiri Baraka the national poet laureate, or Dr. Peter Duesberg the AIDS czar. “Come to Israel, the land of ethnic cleansing” – how’s that for a marketing angle?
Elon’s party, the National Union, is not an isolated grouping of a few stormtroopers, but a mass movement with real influence inside Sharon’s Likud party. They won 7 Knesset seatsin the recent national elections, entered the governing coalition, and were awarded two ministerial portfolios, transportation and tourism, as well as a Deputy Minister of Education, Culture, and Sport.
Elon is a notorious figure in Israel, where his demagogic billboard campaign last year covered the country in signs reading “Only transfer will bring peace.” As the Christian Science Monitor reported:
“Elon says that under conditions of war, Israel has the right to bring upon the Palestinians ‘another nakba,’ or catastrophe, similar to 1948, when an estimated 700,000 of them were expelled or fled during the Arab-Israeli war.”
As Elon puts it:
“People are saying we have had enough, we have seen wars and we have seen the Oslo agreement with all of its bloodshed. I want to remind them of this platform and to remove the taboo from public discussion.”
All civilized societies have taboos, and, in the West, the taboo against these sorts of ideas is very strong. Given the history of the twentieth century, the reason for this interdiction is all too apparent. The degree that Elon’s ideas become representative of Israeli opinion is the extent to which Israel ceases to be a civilized nation – and the poll numbers don’t look good.
Last year, according to the Jaffe Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, 46 percent of Jews in Israel supported the mass expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. 31 percent of those polled supported the “transfer” of Israeli Arabs, while 60 percent liked the idea of strongly “encouraging” Arabs to leave Israel. The numbers are bound to be higher today.
Joining the neo-fascist Elon in his anti-“road map” campaign is a star-studded cavalcade of Israel-firsters, including Martin Peretz, publisher of The New Republic, who is in San Francisco today [Sunday], speaking at the Commonwealth Club. He appeared on a local news program denouncing the “quartet” and advocating a road map of his own: a unilateral American “settlement” that would dissolve the Palestinian Authority (a plank in the National Union platform, see above) and effectively foreclose the possibility of an agreement. Writing in Commentary magazine, Adam Sofaer chimes in, denouncing not only the “so-called” road map, but also the United States for supposedly enabling the violence-prone Palestinians:
“Palestinian violence is a much more serious and difficult problem than even [U.S. State Department official and former Middle East negotiator] Dennis Ross now admits. It is the product of an environment that fosters, shelters, encourages, and rewards acts aimed at nullifying Israel’s very existence. And that environment is itself the creation not only of the Palestinians, or of the Arabs, but also of the international community – including the United States. To change this situation requires changing not just the actions and attitudes of Palestinians but the policies and practices of others, again including the United States.”
Talk about blaming America first! Compared to this, Noam Chomsky, Ted Rall, and the Dixie Chicks are super-patriots. It takes a lot of gall to blame the U.S. for the suicide bombers – especially when we subsidize the state of Israel to the tune of $3 billion per year. But then Israel’s amen corner is getting increasingly desperate as the showdown over Bush’s road map approaches. For Sharon to accept the U.S. demand that the settlements be rolled back would likely bring down his government, and so the American supporters of Likud are fighting this tooth and nail, in collusion with Israeli extremists and the followers of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.
Elon is scheduled to meet with officials of the Christian Coalition and the Christian Broadcasting Network, as well as Gary Bauer and Christian talk show host Janet Parshall: he is also going to meet with unspecified “leaders of the US Senate and the House of Representatives.” This is according to Elon’s spokesperson Ronn Torossian, who has an interesting record, to say the least.
Torossian is an Israeli national associated with the right-wing Likud Party, media director of the Christian Coalition – and also a member of an openly fascist organization known as “Betar.” Speaking at a New York City rally, Torossian issued a terrorist threat against Adam Shapiro, the pro-peace Jewish-American activist:
“Shapiro is a traitor, a piece of garbage, and we are going to make his life and his parents’ lives a living hell.”
Torossian and his goon squad held constant “protests” outside the Sheepshead Bay apartment building where Shapiro’s parents live: a 24-hour police guard had to be placed around their home. This guy is a real thug. In one Internet posting to the Betar site, he wrote:
“I just returned from a trip to Israel and went to the 1st major anti-Sharon demonstration, sponsored by the Community of Efrat. Less than 500 people, but blocking traffic, etc. – One young Betari who couldn’t have been more than 20 or so led hundreds of people into the streets, blocked the main streets of Jerusalem to protest Arik’s failure to hit the Arabs back and fought with Arabs.. The ringleader and only guy to get arrested was a young Israeli Betar guy with a tilboshet. Tel Chai & Death to the Arabs !”
What more do we need to know about Elon and his followers?
The shameless Reverends Falwell and Robertson are Elon’s natural hosts, but why is this Israeli equivalent of David Duke being greeted and feted by members of Congress? Let’s find out which Senators and House members are meeting with the Hitlerian Elon and collaborating with his hate-crazed followers, so that each of them can experience their Trent Lott moment.
After all, what if they met with Joerg Haider, or the head of the British National Party? The outcry would be deafening, and the invitations soon rescinded. In the case of a virulent extremist of Elon’s type, however, one wonders: will anyone dare to notice?
Ariel Sharon made a great show of angrily denouncing the National Union’s American initiative, saying in effect that Israelis shouldn’t intervene quite so openly in internal American politics. But the sincerity of this denunciation is dubious when we consider that his coalition government is hardly going to break up over the dispute. And there are other reasons to wonder if Sharon and Elon aren’t merely playing the old “good cop/bad cop” routine.
Writing in B’sheva, an Israeli weekly newspaper, Haggai Segal cited a statement by Ariel Sharon which has not been reported in the Western media, as far as I can tell, that shows the Israeli Prime Minister’s true sympathies are much closer to Elon’s than anyone in the U.S. State Department is willing to admit:
“I talk about the Road Map, but those who know me know that I’m here to preserve the Land of Israel, not divide it… But we have to work smartly and cleverly. Why fight with Bush if we can talk nicely to him? After all, nothing will come out of this Road Map plan anyway…”
Sharon is right. Congress is already on record as leery of the President’s plan: an open letter, initiated by congressmen Tom Lantos, Roy Blunt, Stenny Hoyner and Henry Hyde, asking the President to please stop leaning on poor little Israel, had 315 signatures: a similar letter originating in the Senate bore 88. Pat Buchanan was excoriated for accurately describing Congress as “Israeli-occupied territory,” but this confirms the dead-on accuracy of his quip. The majority of the GOP congressional caucus is clearly siding with Minister Elon and the American Likudniks over their own President – and that’s why they call it the “amen corner.”
Haggai goes on to quote more from Sharon:
“In the long-range, the only chance to prevent an erosion of our position depends on the settlers [the Jewish residents of Judea, Samaria and Gaza]. They’re the only ones who are separating between the Arabs and their dreams. Without them, a Palestinian state would long have been established in all of Yesha. In the merit of their stubbornness, their willingness to sacrifice, it can still be possibly stopped or at least neutralized. I just hope that they don’t get tired or weak suddenly. We’re in deep trouble if they get tired or stop believing. Their job on this earth is to fight the despair of my generation, to fight my weakness. They have to save us from our despair, my despair. So [in Sharon’s oft-quoted words from late 1998], let everyone get a move on and take more hilltops, take more land. Whatever we take – will be ours, and whatever we don’t take, will be theirs [the Arabs’].”
Does this sound like someone who is about to give up the settlements, and move on to a new era of peace?
For the record: The whole “road map” idea is a losing proposition for the U.S., a useless charade made possible and even necessary by the U.S. invasion of Iraq. To counter-balance our obvious tilt toward Israel – this war was, after all, nothing but a proxy war on Israel’s behalf – the Bushies feel obligated to “reach out” to the Arab world, in belated recognition that we’ll need their help in the ongoing war on Al Qaeda and its successors. But just as our intervention in Arab affairs causes resentment and fuels Islamic extremism, providing recruits for Bin Laden’s terrorist armies, so U.S. meddling and pressure on our Israeli ally feeds the extremism of Elon and the National Union in Israel – without solving the problem our intervention was supposed to correct. A problem, one might add, that was worsened if not caused by the U.S. to begin with, as without U.S. military and economic aid the Israeli occupation of Arab lands would not be possible in the first place.
As we endlessly intervene to repair the damage done by previous interventions, the U.S. is caught in a nightmarish cycle of recurring disasters. The only solution is to break the cycle. We cannot broker a peace deal among peoples who insist on fighting each other. We need to cut economic and military ties to Israel and the Arab states, while, simultaneously, announcing to all parties that the United States will henceforth have nothing to do with the “quartet.” Let the UN, Russia, and the EU fight it out with the Israelis and the newly-installed Palestinian Prime Minister, Abu Mazen. (Gee, if they held an election, I must have missed it.)
In spite of all this, however, it is very interesting to watch how the pro-Israel lobby is frenetically working to undermine what is, after all, the President’s own plan for Middle East peace. In attacking Powell’s trip to Damascus as “ludicrous”, Newt Gingrich was giving voice to the untrammeled Likudnik-National Unionist view that meeting with the Syrian strongman is like meeting with Bin Laden or the Taliban. But as Powell pointed out on “Meet the Press” this [Sunday] morning, the former Speaker of the House was really attacking the President’s policy, not the State Department’s. Stay tuned for more of this as the fight escalates.
What I find interesting is how Minister Elon thinks he can directly influence the White House. As one news account framed it:
“Many Evangelical Christians in the USA have eschatological views which views the establishment of the state of Israel as necessary for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Many therefore find themselves in opposition to such a ‘two state’ solution as the one on offer.
“We have to strengthen our ties with those connected to and who influence Bush. He has the strength to stand up to international opinion,’ Elon had said.
“Noting that Bush is a religious man and pays close attention to Christian interests, Elon had added, ‘He is a man who prays daily. He knows the Bible…'”
In appealing to Bush’s religious views Elon may not be far off the mark. But just in case this kind of gentle persuasion doesn’t work, Elon’s meetings with Christian Coalition leaders and others are designed to exert another less subtle kind of pressure as the President’s reelection campaign gets underway. One can only agree with Sharon, however, that this kind of intervention is most unhelpful to Israel:
“Whoever thinks that the government can function by exerting pressures on Congress and from there on the Presidency does not understand the situation, the relations with the U.S., and the campaign that we are waging. This causes heavy damage to Israel… It is a big mistake to go to the U.S. and activate elements against the Administration. It causes great and unnecessary damage and makes our diplomatic campaign harder.”
Blackmail is something that is usually done in the dark. To see such tactics being openly used to derail the road map looks really bad, and the spectacle of the hate-monger Elon touring the country, spreading his particular variety of poison, doesn’t help.
There are two road maps to peace in the Middle East on the table: the Bush-Powell version and the Elon plan. Sharon is covertly supporting the latter while pretending to uphold the former, while Israel’s supporters in this country are mobilizing their forces for a preemptive strike against the State Department. If George W. Bush, pumped up by the hubris of a quick victory over the Iraqis, thinks he can take on the Israelis and win just as effortlessly, he is sadly mistaken.