Putting Peace on the Map

Ewen MacAskill’s suggestion that the neo-conservatives in the Bush administration and the Israeli right read from the same hymn sheet may sound logical, but it is not borne out by the facts (Road map to nowhere, April 14).Just before the outbreak of the Iraqi war, Paul Wolfowitz stated that the US stake in pushing for a Palestinian state would grow after the war, and he noted that he preferred “concrete steps, like dealing with the settlements” over the advancing of diplomatic issues as part of a “process”. Several months before that, Wolfowitz represented the Bush administration at a pro-Israel rally and irritated the Christian right when he emphasised the need for a political solution to the conflict with the Palestinians.

Sharon’s apparent willingness to compromise in an interview with Ha’aretz should be interpreted as the first step in his campaign to ward off American pressure. MacAskill forgets that the Republican administration of the first President Bush was highly critical of the Likud government of Yitzhak Shamir and placed great pressure on Israel to attend the Madrid conference at the end of 1991. Sharon resigned from the government because of Shamir’s “moderation”. The Bush government also threatened to withold credits and credit guarantees from Israel which were necessary to assist in the immigration of Russian Jews.

MacAskill also doesn’t understand the political direction of US Jews – of whom 70% have for decades voted for the Democrats regardless of US policy towards Israel. The geriatric Jewish voters of Florida may be old, but they are not stupid. Most of them are long-time leftists from New York who can run rings around the current president and his minions.

Dr Colin Shindler
SOAS, University of London

Guardian 16 April 2003

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