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War Is Hell

WASHINGTON - The Israelis will never find a better friend than President George W. Bush, who has blocked any early call by the United Nations for a ceasefire in Gaza.

In doing so, Bush has enabled the Israelis' brutal land, sea and air offensive against the Palestinians, mostly with American-supplied weaponry.

According to the French newspaper Le Figaro, Bush was informed of Israel's plans for the offensive and gave the green light for the heavy bombardment of the Palestinians in Gaza. Reports from the area said more than 600 Palestinians -- militants and civilians and some 70 children -- have been killed.

Bush's pro-Israeli Mideast policy and refusal to ease civilian suffering by calling for a Gaza ceasefire reminds us of his similar stance in Israel's war against Lebanon two years ago.

Israel took a beating in that war with Hezbollah and had to retreat. Since then, it appears to have been looking for a way to restore its image of military superiority in the region.

The president had shown little humanitarian concern for the people in Gaza.

As he prepares to depart the White House, Bush leaves behind the empty promise of a two-state solution for the long-standing regional conflict. It had been a point of pride in his legacy.

In withholding support for a U.N. call for a truce, the Bush administration has said it was awaiting assurances that a cease-fire would lead to a "durable" peace in the 60-year war. He has two weeks remaining in his presidency.

Thanks to Bush, the Israelis are well supplied to continue the hostilities with a high-powered army, F-16 jets, Apache helicopter gunships and tanks, as well as cluster bombs and bunker-buster explosives.

Both sides should stop the senseless killing and come to the peace table.

Israel made a show of leaving Gaza but has never hesitated to inflict its military might from time to time on Gaza -- inhabited by 1.5 million Palestinians -- since its voluntary exit in 2005.

Israel has maintained its military power in the area in many ways, mainly by controlling entries and exits for people and supplies, including food, medicine and fuel. There are Uzi-bearing soldiers at the humiliating checkpoints. Some withdrawal!

Bush had hoped to bring peace to the Middle East but for him it was a one-way street.

The moment Hamas won an election in Gaza in 2006, Bush -- who had been pushing democratic elections in the region -- immediately cut off all aid to the Palestinians because he didn't like the outcome.

Hamas won the election, fairly and honestly, according to former President Jimmy Carter and international observers.

By refusing to accept the electoral will of the people of Gaza, Bush threw U.S. support to the more pro-Western leaders of the Fatah branch of the Palestinian resistance, based in the West Bank.

At Gaza, the Israelis have turned away reporters seeking to cover the war. Furthermore, the Israelis have banned Richard Falk -- the U.N. special observer for human rights and a former Princeton University law professor -- from Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.

Falk enraged the Israelis when he called the assault against Gaza "a crime against humanity."

Falk also has asked the International Criminal Court to investigate the situation.

If Americans are wondering why the Palestinians continue to fight, they might understand that for the last 60 years foreigners have conquered and annexed their land.

The Israelis may have some apprehension that Bush is departing. But apparently they don't have to worry that president-elect Barack Obama might become a little more even-handed.

Obama's words while he was in Israel on the campaign trail last summer were reassuring and widely repeated. Obama said that if rockets were thrown at a house where his two little girls were threatened, he would do everything in his power to stop them.

That is totally understandable. However, Obama did not add that if Palestinian children were being attacked by Israeli bombers, he also would do everything he could to stop them.

But that would take courage.

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