Friday, May 30, 2008

CMEP calls Bush's latest trip a missed opportunity

Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) writes about President Bush's latest trip, calls it a missed opportunity to present a Holy Land vision. For more news and action tips, see the CMEP web site:

Bush's Latest Trip: A Missed Opportunity to Present a Holy Land Vision

CMEP's email message is also available online at:

May 23, 2008
Julie Schumacher Cohen, Legislative Coordinator

The President's latest trip to the Middle East seems to have failed to make meaningful progress on the Annapolis peace process. The three-way summit in Sharm el Sheikh that some had predicted did not happen, although the President did meet with Israeli, Palestinian and other Arab leaders separately. A focal point of the visit was his address to the Israeli Knesset, a unique opportunity to recognize not only Israel's 60th anniversary but also present a vision for peace. It is that speech which has seized the most attention and caused the most debate. Much of the attention has been given to the President's remarks about the danger of "appeasement" vis-à-vis those who would advocate U.S. dialogue with our "enemies." Less noticed were (1) the regrettable absence of any substantive mention of Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking and (2) the highly religious tone that imbued much of the President's remarks about Israel.

Throughout the Knesset speech, the President related Biblical promises to the modern state of Israel, whose destiny he linked to America's destiny. In describing the founding of Israel, he said "what followed was more than the establishment of a new country. It was the redemption of an ancient promise given to Abraham and Moses and David- a homeland for the chosen people Eretz Yisrael." In illustrating the American relationship with Israel, he pointed out that the founders of the United States saw in it "a new promised land," and he recalled William Bradford stepping off the Mayflower and quoting the words of Jeremiah, "Come let us declare in Zion the word of God."

For those of us who are religiously-minded, it should be no surprise that the conflict in the Holy Land evokes spiritual and religious imagery, even by major heads of state. In 1978, on the occasion of Israel's 30th anniversary, President Carter declared that "The establishment of the nation of Israel is a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy and the very essence of its fulfillment." Carter's words sound no less "Christian Zionist" than those spoken by Bush last week. Likewise, President Clinton in 1994 when he went before the Knesset recalled the words of his own pastor who said, "it was God's will that Israel, the biblical home of the people of Israel, continue for ever and ever." However, such statements do raise a number of questions given the competing Palestinian claim over the Holy Land and the role the U.S. has traditionally sought to play as peacemaker between Arabs and Jews. The question is not whether or not the Jewish people have a religious and historical tie to the land that is today the modern state of Israel - they clearly do - but whether it is an exclusive tie, and whether a president of the United States is a qualified interpreter capable of providing a sound understanding of the biblical promises, not to mention their relationship to U.S. foreign policy.

In any case, when these three U.S. Presidents had a chance to speak before the Israeli Knesset - the only three that have - Carter and Clinton, unlike Bush, did not merely congratulate Israeli lawmakers. Both emphasized the strong U.S.-Israel relationship, based on shared values, at times laden in religious symbolism. However, importantly, they also used their speeches to emphasize the imperative for peacemaking. In 1979 on the heels of the Egypt-Israel accords but before any PLO dialogue had begun Carter said, "It's important that the door be kept open to all the parties to the conflict, including the Palestinians, with whom, above all, Israel shares a common interest in living in peace and living with mutual respect." Clinton, visiting during promising talks between Syria and Israel, told the Knesset members: "After all the bloodshed and all your tears, you are now far closer to the day when the clash of arms is heard no more, and all the children of Abraham - the children of Isaac, the children of Ishmael - will live side by side in peace." But President Bush's speech made no reference to the Annapolis process and exhibited little sensitivity to the situation of Palestinian Christians and Muslims. By failing to offer an inclusive religious message, that is also in line with the long-standing American diplomatic goal of a just and secure resolution of the Israeli-Arab conflict, his words left other faith groups and the Palestinian people unsure about his recognition of their own ties and connections to the Holy Land.

Fortunately, President Bush did not depart from the principle of U.S. support for a two-state solution. While he made only a cursory mention of a Palestinian state in the Knesset speech, in Egypt three days later he presented a clearer message when he said, "Last year at Annapolis, we made a hopeful beginning toward a peace negotiation that will outline what this nation of Palestine will look like -- a contiguous state where Palestinians live in prosperity and dignity. A peace agreement is in the Palestinians' interests, it is in Israel's interests, it is in Arab states' interests, and it is in the world's interests." So the President who made history for being the first to make formal U.S. policy the creation of a Palestinian state has not departed from his commitment, but his words in the Knesset failed to strengthen the forces for peace in the region and give greater credibility to his Annapolis efforts.

At the end of President Bush's remarks to Israel's lawmakers, he told a story of how on the day of Israel's independence, the retreating British handed the key to Jerusalem's Zion gate to a senior rabbi, "the first time in 18 centuries that a key to the gates of Jerusalem had belonged to a Jew." Speaking in Jerusalem and recalling a poignant moment for Jews in their holy city could have been a moment to provide a broader spiritual message on that sacred place. What does Jerusalem mean to Jews, Christians and Muslims worldwide and to both the Israeli and Palestinian people? How can all of us who hold the city dear best respond to the Psalmist's entreaty, to "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May those who love you be secure."? To date, the Bush Administration has been hesitant to offer its own view on how Jerusalem should be resolved or to significantly challenge Israeli actions that prejudge the city's future. The President could have used his historic speech to the Knesset to broaden his two-state vision to include the principle of a shared Jerusalem, holy to three faiths, significant for two peoples and critical to a final status agreement.

The Middle East today is being torn apart by sectarian conflicts and religious extremism. With the Israeli-Arab conflict persisting 60 years after the birth of Israel, President Bush missed an opportunity to articulate the need for coexistence, tolerance and compromise and to assert more urgent American leadership on issues like Jerusalem. It is not too late for this. By restoring momentum and credibility to the Annapolis peace process, the President can still fulfill the legacy he seeks as a peacemaker.

Churches for Middle East Peace
Phone: 202-543-1222

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1 comment:

Ojalanpoika said...

Jeru-salaam, -shalom & -salem,

Could you kindly comment, whether my details are correct in a dissident essay concerning the recent scaling up of production in the Israeli high Tech companies in: ?

However, if you are only after Jihad against Eretz Israel by the means of media war after the conventional weapons were not succesful, please do not bother. I don't want to have anything to do with any holy war - wars are not holy.

E.g. "...Before the Second Intifada, there were nearly 200 Israeli companies listed in the Nasdaq, at the Intifada the count dropped to 70. (The number is still greater than from all the European countries combined). It is said that the dollars are green since the Americans pull them down from the tree raw and fresh. The start-ups are imported straight from the garage, and scaling up of production in the "conflict hotspot" has been considered impossible. But the new Millennium has brought a change in tide.

As an example, the supranational Intel transferred the mass production of Centricon-processors to Israel, where ~20% of citizens possess university decrees (ranking 3rd in the world) but where the environment respects patents and are not plagiating every item they produce to others like the rocketting China. Intel was also offered an overall tax rate of 10%, which is about three times lower than that of US.

Also, the biggest generic drug factory in the world was recently established in Israel. Generating US$7 billion in annual revenues, Israel's Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. (TEVA) is the world's largest generic pharmaceutical company. That is: to cure people with less money. TEVA makes generic versions of brand-name antibiotics, heart drugs, heartburn medications, and more - in all close to 200 global generic products, 700 compounds, and more than 2800 dosage forms and formulations. TEVA's pharmaceuticals are used in some 20% of U.S. generic drug prescriptions. Examples of TEVA's generics include lower-cost equivalents of such blockbusters as anti-depressant Prozac and cholesterol drug Mevacor. Nevertheless, in biotechnology and original drug development, about 400 experimental Israeli drugs have been approved or accepted in clinical phases.

The population of Arabs under the Israeli government increased ten-fold in only 57 years. Palestinian life expectancy increased from 48 to 72 years in 1967-95. The death rate decreased by over 2/3 in 1970-90 and the Israeli medical campaigns decreased the child death rate from a level of 60 per 1000 in 1968 to 15 per 1000 in 2000 at the Westbank. (An analogous figure was 64 in Iraq, 40 in Egypt, 23 in Jordan, and 22 in Syria in 2000). During 1967-88 the amount of comprehensive schoold and second level polytechnic institutes for the Arabs was increased by 35%. During 1970-86 the proportion of Palestinian women at the West Bank and Gaza not having gone to school decreased from 67 % to 32 %. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita in West Bank and Gaza increased in 1968-1991 from 165 US dollars to 1715 dollars (compare with 1630$ in Turkey, 1440$ in Tunis, 1050$ in Jordan, 800$ in Syria, 600$ in Egypt. and 400$ in Yemen)..."

Recovering from hemorrhage in the left hemisphere of the brain,
Pauli Ojala, evolutionary critic
Biochemist, drop-out (MSci-Master of Sciing)