At last, the U.S. government is at least talking tough with Israel.
When Secretary of State Colin Powell upbraided Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Tuesday for seizing Palestinian land in the Gaza Strip, it had an immediate--and positive--effect.
It convinced Sharon to retreat.
As Sharon's adviser, Dore Gold, told CNN: "We pay very close attention to what is said in Washington."
My only question is, why has it taken so long for the U.S. government to use the pressure it has at its disposal?
For eight years, Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Madeleine Albright virtually never raised their voices at Israel's policy of razing Palestinian homes, establishing illegal settlements, torturing Palestinians behind bars, assassinating Palestinian officials, or illegally bombing and occupying southern Lebanon.
Early on, Bush was no better. He warmly greeted Sharon in Washington, while pointedly shutting out Arafat. He and Powell said nothing about the ongoing assassinations by the Israeli armed forces, focusing their wrath instead on the violence by the Palestinians, which is also unjustifiable but which pales in comparison to the ongoing Israeli violence and occupation.
On March 27, the United States vetoed a U.N. Security Council Resolution that would have empowered a U.N. observer force to monitor the Israeli-occupied territories. The United States was the only Security Council member to veto the resolution. Our four European allies abstained, while China, Russia, Bangladesh, Colombia, Jamaica, Mali, Mauritius, Singapore, and Tunisia all voted for the resolution.
(Washington was particularly miffed at the Colombians, who are receiving $1.3 billion in U.S. aid to do their own repression. "We have made it very clear that their vote in the U.N. will have consequences," Assistant Secretary of State Edward Walker said.)
Even when Israel attacked a Syrian radar installation deep into Lebanon on Monday the Bush Administration remained silent.
But fortunately, Powell had enough once Sharon sent his troops into Gaza. He was absolutely right when he said, "There can be no military solution to this conflict."
The instant results that his words achieved leave me wondering: What would happen if the United States ever issued more than a scolding and actually threatened to withdraw its $3 billion annual allowance to Israel?
Maybe then the Israeli government would finally have to come to terms with the Palestinians.