Sunday, August 13, 2006

Op-Ed: America loses right to lead Middle East peace efforts

Time for US to step aside in Middle East peace drive
By Ray Hanania

If the war between Israel and Lebanon has shown us anything, it is that the United States no longer can lay claim to the mantel of neutral arbitrator in helping to resolve the Middle East conflicts.

In fact, in the Lebanese conflict and the war in Iraq, the United States has been the aggressor, violating international laws and fundamental moral principles that have guided most past American administrations.

Factually, everyone agrees that the war in Lebanon in a large part continues to rage beyond a negotiated cease fire for more than a month because Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice intentionally avoided achieving a cease fire to help Israel, which has risen from the longstanding category of “American ally” to “partner in conflict.”

Worse, while the focus on the Lebanon-Israel war has been on the allegations that Hezbollah, the resistance militia that was founded after Israel illegally invaded and occupied Lebanon in 1982 not before, has been supplied by Iran and Syria, the mis-focus has been the role the United States has played in supplying Israel with weapons of mass destruction.

It’s not Israeli fighter jets that are strafing civilian neighborhoods in Lebanon’s cities or even in the still-Israeli occupied Gaza Strip. It is American made fighter jets. American made missiles. American made weapons of mass destruction that are causing the death of hundreds of civilians in Lebanon, Palestine and in Iraq.

Rice and President Bush have played a clear role in helping to fuel rather than end the conflicts, primarily to pander to the emotions of an American public. The fact that a majority of Americans have no come to realize that the United States is losing not winning the war in Iraq, if you interpret the polls correctly, exposes the reasons why the Bush administration is exploiting rather than tempering these conflicts.

This Fall, the Republican Party that Bush represents, stands to loose many seats in the Congress, in part because of the backlash against the Iraq war. There is a growing and justified public understanding that the Bush response to the terrorism threat has not made American safer but rather has exposed Americans to greater harm not just internationally but also in the homeland.

The Republicans control the Congress and therefore controls jobs, contracts and dominate the political process.

If they loose control, the Republicans and Bush will see a quick reversal in America’s Republican-led policies not just foreign but also in the United States.

Worse, if the political trend against the Republicans continues, the GOP (Grand Old Party as it is called) will also insure the loss of the White House two years from now. At that time, it seems clear that U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton, the wife of former President Bill Clinton, will be the Democratic candidate.

And while Senator Clinton has waffled on the Middle East issues, she has done so to navigate through the complexities of Americans’ changing mood.

If she is elected President, certainly, the United States may be qualified to restore its efforts to be a neutral arbiter in the conflicts, which in turn would help restore American successes in combating terrorism and making Americans safe.

Until then, the Middle East is left leaderless in the field of peace negotiations and that is not a good situation for anyone in the United States, in the West or in the Middle East.

In contrast, if the European Union, which has resisted manipulation by both the Bush administration and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, can link up with the Arab League and other less controlled world nations, maybe they can better fashion a compromise to address the reasons why Hezbollah attacked Israel’s military border patrols, and achieve a lasting peace on the Lebanon-Israel border.

And, such an effort could reassemble the scattered pieces of the failed Oslo Peace accords and pressure Israel to make real concessions rather than the shallow, face-saving gestures it offered to the late President Arafat at Camp David.

Maybe they might even be pushed to put those offers in writing so as not to play the typical bait and switch tactic characteristic of American and Israeli foreign policies.

Such a new alliance of world powers could change the course set by Bush when he intentionally stepped back from Middle East peace efforts – before Sept. 11 -- to allow the Israeli military to rampage throughout the region and in Palestine.

Too many innocent people have died on all sides because of Bush’s failed policies and because of the failure of the American Congress to pursue genuine peace and justice rather than partisan politics to feed their hunger for funding, votes and domestic power.

(Ray Hanania is the former national president of the Palestinian American Congress and an award winning columnist and author. He can be reached at