know that you did not ask my opinion, but in light of your meeting
with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu I wanted to humbly offer a
few thoughts and suggestions.
US Presidential administration since President Eisenhower has taken
a really tough stand towards Israel and its violations of international
law and precedent. You may remember that after the Israelis joined
with the British and French in 1956 in invading Egypt, the US took
a firm position and insisted that all three aggressors withdraw
from Egypt. Interestingly enough, all three did.
since that time, almost irrespective of Israeli violations of human
rights, international law, and common decency, US administration
after administration has found any way to excuse the Israelis and
put the burden on the Palestinians.
President, the Palestinians have lived under an occupation for more
than 40 years. International law says that a people who are under
occupation have a right to resist the occupation. International
law does not recognize occupations that violate United Nations resolutions.
Perhaps, after some study, you could explain how is it that discussions
of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories almost always
focus on what the Palestinians are doing rather than questioning
why the Israelis are still there, and why they keep building settlements.
Minister Netanyahu clearly recognizes that you are not George Bush,
but in traveling to Washington, DC his objective was to secure your
silence, if not support, for minimal action on the part of the Israeli
government to address the needs and demands of the Palestinian people.
What many of us want to know, Mr. President, is whether you will
be more like Eisenhower, or whether the Palestinians will be allowed
to be blamed yet again for their own occupation.
donít want to push this too far, Mr. President, but when Prime Minister
Netanyahu asked you to join forces with him to threaten Iran, why
didnít you ask him when was the last time that Iran invaded and
occupied someone elseís territory? When Prime Minister Netanyahu
asked you about the alleged nuclear threat from Iran, perhaps you
could have fleshed out your answer to the question regarding nuclear
threats in the Middle East that you were asked by Helen Thomas in
one of your first press conferences after the November election,
when you failed to mention - perhaps it was an oversight - that
the only nuclear power in the Middle East/Western Asia is Israel?
to say, my hope is that you would have chosen to be more like President
Eisenhower with regard to Israel, and informed Prime Minister Netanyahu
that if Israel does not pull out of the Occupied Territories within
a given amount of time, the US will cut off aid. But then you might
be concerned that some of your domestic supporters might accuse
you of being a bad ally to Israel. So, how about, just to get things
started, you suggest:
- That Netanyahu needs to get down to real negotiations
with the leaders of the Palestinian people - including but not
limited to Hamas--towards a final and just resolution of the conflict.
- That Netanyahu needs to deep-six his ideas about building
the Palestinian economy while ignoring Palestinian national self-determination.
- That Netanyahu needs to address the peace proposal
that the Arab League floated for years which would bring about
peace and security for Israel and the Palestinians.
- Oh, and of course, that immediately Israel must end
the blockade of Gaza, repair the damage they caused through their
aggression, and cease and desist from any further selective assassinations
of Palestinian leaders.
President, there is so much more to cover, but I think that the
bottom line is that the people of the world are looking at you and
wondering whether you are truly interested in shifting US foreign
policy or whether you are more concerned about US image. There are
those around you who believe that the problems that the USA faces
overseas are largely the result of George Bush and bad public relations,
rather than recognizing that the USA has a history of being on the
wrong side, particularly when it comes to issues facing people in
the global South.
are many of us who supported your candidacy who believe that the
true test of the democratic and just aspirations of your administration
will be judged by whether the US remains complicit in the oppression
of the Palestinian people. We are counting on you, sir, to the do
the right thing.
Executive Editor, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a Senior Scholar with the
Institute for Policy Studies,
the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum and co-author of, Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path
toward Social Justice (University
of California Press), which examines the crisis of organized labor
in the USA. He is also on the steering committee of the US Campaign
to End the Israeli Occupation. Click here
to contact Mr. Fletcher.