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Memo to President Bush

By Bassam Abu Sharif:

Published: June 02, 2008

To the attention of President Bush:

The failure to achieve peace in the Middle East will create a vacuum that will be filled by extremism.

I first wrote a proposal for peace in the Middle East in 1988. The proposal was published in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and other major U.S. newspapers.

That proposal dared to suggest a two-state solution through negotiations with Israel, with each side renouncing violence. It was adopted as a base for the Palestine Liberation Organization's political program on Nov.15, 1988.

It was the crux of Yasser Arafat's initiative for peace, which he publicly declared in front of the United Nations General Assembly held in Geneva in December 1988.

The reaction of Washington was the recognition of the PLO and the establishment of a dialogue between the U.S. and the PLO.

Israel's reaction to the Palestinian and American proposal was an immediate rejection by then Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.

Since then, the process has gone into different stages, each ending in failure. The consecutive Israeli governments made sure that nothing would come out of negotiations.

Israel continued annexation of Palestinian land building new settlements, expanding established settlements and turning the life of Palestinians into continuous turmoil and fear.

Israel built military road blocks; they built the annexation wall, and made the life of Palestinians unbearable. Palestinians can't cultivate their land, and are forbidden to move freely in their own land.

Gaza is encircled and under siege. Two million human beings live in abject poverty on the edge of starvation.

Who is to blame, and where to go from here? People in the Middle East are confused and angry. President Bush promises the Palestinians an independent state before he ends his term. The reality however is they witness the truth on the ground. Israel continues to expand and rejects every proposal put forth by the Palestinian government.

The people of the Middle East no longer believe that the United States, the main supporter and financier of Israel will seriously engage Israel to pursue peace.

They are fully convinced that the political interests of the United States are foremost, and those political interests are served by conciliation to Israel.

We here can't forget that it look President Eisenhower 10 minutes to order the Israeli occupation forces out of Gaza in 1956. Bush could act as decisively as Eisenhower if he had the courage.

The Israelis could be ordered to evacuate occupied Palestine and relieve the siege of Gaza. If Israel were told, in the strongest possible terms, to do this, they would. Because the United States is the source of life for Israel. If the Israelis see that Washington is firm they will carry on with the road map, engineered by the United States. But as long as the Israelis feel that the Americans are not sincere about establishing a Palestinian state they will continue their annexation plans and their colonialist activities.

One can describe the Israelis as blind politically when it comer to the peace offers. They are unable to see the obvious benefits clearly.

Twenty years ago we offered them peace. They rejected and dishonored their own signatures on agreements. Where do the Israelis want to go?

Occupy more? Egypt with its 120 millions population, Syria with its 15 million population, Palestinians with their 8 millions, Iraq with its 30 million … etc.

Israel cannot continue as it has for so long. They will end up like all the colonial powers.

The United States has failed to implement U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, unanimously adopted in June 1967. Nor have they pressed to implement several U.N. resolutions addressing the conflict.

The offer for peace by the Arabs and Palestinian is still valid. But no one should bet that it will remain pending for long. When President Clinton was leaving the White House, Arafat called him. Clinton said to Arafat: "You made a failure out of me."

But the fact is that Clinton was a failure. It sounds very funny to the people of the Middle East to see the United States waging a war in Iraq under fabricated reasons. One of those reasons given for the war in Iraq was Iraq's failure to implement U.N. resolutions, while Israel refuses to implement a U.N. security council resolution adopted in 1967 (41 years ago). The hypocrisy of the United States in dealing with the Middle East is not lost on its people.


Bassam Abu Sharif was a senior adviser to Yasser Arafat. He was a principal architect of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. 

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