Middle East: Rift between USA and EU

As Ariel Sharon tries to convince George Bush that Arafat is a spent force, the European union disagrees with Washington’s Middle East policy.

Ariel Sharon has two main objectives on his visit to Washington: to bulldoze George Bush, as his forces bulldoze Palestinian homes, to ostracise Yasser Arafat as a pariah and to gain a promise from the USA that Hezbollah will be considered as a terrorist organisation.

Sharon has met in recent days with Ahmad Qorei (also known as Abu Alaa) and Mahmmud Abbas (known as Abu Mazen), although without success, as he tries to divide the Palestinian cause and to find a successor to Yasser Arafat. The choice of these two Palestinian leaders is not by chance. On the subject of his succession, Yasser Arafat declared to the Palestinian daily Al-Ittihad and the weekly Al-Mussawar, that “According to the law, it is the head of legislative power who will lead the Palestine Authority for 60 days until a new leader is elected”. Ahmad Qorei is the President of the Palestinian legislative council and Mahmmud Abbas is Secretary-General of the executive committee of the PLO.

The Israeli Defence Minister, Ben-Eliezer, in a meeting with Kofi Annan on Tuesday, said that “I do not see that there is any way for us to continue working with Arafat, while he is compromised with a position which faces the past and not the future”.

Reiterating Sharon’s stance against Hezbollah, he claimed “Hezbollah is one of the most aggressive and dramatic terrorist organisations in the world. As you have already heard, Al-Qaeda is infiltrating Hezbollah in the Lebanon and if they start working together, it will not be good for the freedom of the world”.

This position will further highlight the strain on relations between Washington and Iran, after George Bush’s “axis of evil” speech in the State of the Union speech. Israel points out that Iran supplied Hezbollah recently with 8,000 katiushka rockets and shipped 50 tonnes of arms to this faction on the ship Katrina A, intercepted in the Mediterranean.

Sharon declared to the New York Times recently that “Iran wants the destruction of the State of Israel and the elimination of the Jewish people. For this reason, it was very important that president Bush should have named Iran as a sponsor of terrorism”.

The Israeli government and George Bush may be walking hand in hand, but this position is not adopted by all. Miguel Angel Moratinos, the European Union Middle East envoy, recently visited Arafat in his virtual prison at Ramallah in a show of solidarity, while the French Foreign Minister, Hubert Vedrine, stated that “The Europeans are unanimous in not supporting the policy of the White House for the Middle East”.

Even within the United States, there is support for Arafat. William Burns, the US special envoy for the Middle East, declared in Cairo that “Our position is very clear: President Arafat is the elected leader of the Palestinian people and we shall continue to work with the Palestine Authority”.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell was presented with a dossier drawn up by the Palestine Authority, in which was shown that the Palestine Authority has arrested 195 extremist militants, has closed down 79 suspicious organisations, has frozen 56 bank accounts, closed 15 munitions factories and has ended extremist prayers at Mosques.

Sharon, however, the self-proclaimed man of peace, currently under investigation in Brussels for crimes against humanity, due to his involvement in the massacres at Sabra and Chatila, 1982, in the Lebanon, continues to disbelieve that Arafat is making a serious attempt to achieve peace.

His arrogant visit to the Esplanade of the Mosques on September 2000 sparked off the Intifada which has caused over 1,000 deaths. Accepting the Tenet (EU) and Mitchell (USA) plans, but imposing conditions which made them impracticable, such as “total calm” before negotiations, while Israeli troops carried out brutal acts of aggression against Palestinians, makes it clear that he is the one who is not making serious efforts to achieve peace.

While the Palestinian lands are occupied, while their houses are demolished, while their children are shot in the eyes with rubber bullets, while their pregnant women are left to die in the streets with laughing Israeli soldiers looking on, while their lands are expropriated and while they are attacked by the vicious colonies, the kamikaze attacks will continue.

The answer is very simple and it does not reside at the White House, but rather in Tel Aviv.


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