ICEJ NEWS – 08/31/2001
Facing a mounting backlash in the Arab/Islamic world for his apparent tilt towards Israel in recent weeks, US President George W. Bush is reportedly considering holding his first meeting with PLO chief Yasser Arafat on the sidelines of the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in early September.
Since taking office in January, Bush has hosted Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on two occasions, but he has refused to invite Arafat to the White House until he finally makes efforts to halt Palestinian violence and terrorism.
Bush’s shunning of Arafat has been a major policy victory for Sharon, who is urging the international community to “isolate” Arafat and not to “reward” him in any way for Palestinian violence and terror.
But Bush may be wilting under pressure from Arab/Islamic nations and elsewhere, as the NEW YORK TIMES is reporting that Saudi Arabia is trying to arrange a Bush-Arafat rendezvous if both show up at the annual September opening of the UN fall session. Bush is debating whether to deliver a speech next month in which he will express support for some Palestinian positions in order to dispel the impression that the US is giving one-sided support to Israel, Army Radio reported today.
Last Friday, Bush directed his sternest comments to date at Arafat, stating emphatically, “It is time that it be understood that Israel will not negotiate under fire, and Arafat must stop his threats and suicide killers… As simple as that. And if the Palestinians are interested in a dialogue, then I strongly urge Mr. Arafat to put a hundred percent effort into stopping the terrorist activity. And I believe he can do a better job of doing that.”
The Palestinian Authority and their Arab/Islamic allies were riled at the sharp lecture, which came just as the Bush Administration:
1) Effectively blocked a PLO-backed measure at the UN Security Council for foreign monitors to “protect” Palestinians;
2) Downgraded the official US delegation to the UN conference on racism in Durban because Arab/Muslim states plan to “pick on our ally Israel,” and
3) Continued to rebuff appeals that they censure Israel for using American-made warplanes and weapons in precision hits on Palestinian terrorists.
PA officials accused the Bush team of giving Israel a “green light” to “assassinate” Palestinians, as well as the means to do it, and listed all sorts of depraved motives for his pro-Israel leanings. The official PA news agency WAFA ran an editorial this week saying Bush “looked very ugly and pathetic,” while other Arab media began denigrating him for numerous immoral traits, including having “two alcoholic daughters.”
Behind the scenes, Washington’s key regional ally Saudi Arabia has shown its displeasure by cutting out American firms from recent bidding on construction and drilling projects totaling $500 million, according to CNN’s David Ensor.
In addition The Arab/Islamic bloc and American Muslim groups have stepped up their lobbying efforts again at the US State Department concerning Israel’s use of US-supplied Apache helicopters and F-16 combat jets to target Palestinian militants. They contend it breaches the contractual terms of sale with the US, which under the Arms Export Control Act is limited to “legitimate self defense” purposes only.
So far, the State Department has put off any final “legal determination” on the issue. Earlier this week, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher responded to pointed questions on the matter by suggesting the US objects more to the “event” of “targeted killings” than the particular weapons used.
But according to the INDEPENDENT of London, the General Accounting Office (GAO) – the investigative arm of Congress – is doing an audit of the US sale of arms to countries in the Middle East over the past 10 years. Included in the audit will be an examination of export controls attached to each sale, including those to Israel.
Nonetheless, the US Congress would likely line up solidly behind Israel’s policy of pre-empting terror attacks, just as the American public did in a recent poll showing 73% of respondents believing that Israel is “justified” in “attempting to kill” a terrorist when “Israel has proof that a terrorist is planning a suicide bomb or other act of terrorism that is likely to result in the deaths of Israelis.”
Another new survey, commissioned by an Arab-American lobby group, suggested Bush also has overwhelming support in his decision not to meet with Arafat. The poll found that a majority of Americans, while supportive of the creation of a Palestinian state, have an unfavorable perception of Arafat. Only 18% of likely US voters polled had a favorable impression of Arafat, with 67% unfavorable.
In contrast, 29% had a favorable impression of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and 20% unfavorable, with about one-half too unfamiliar with him to give an opinion. Americans also had a more favorable view of Israelis than of Palestinians, with 60% favorable toward Israelis and 39% favorable toward Palestinians.
Meanwhile, the US continues to take seriously threats by Palestinian and Islamic terror groups to strike out at American interests worldwide. The US has closed its embassies in Bulgaria and Romania to the public after receiving security threats apparently related to the situation in the Middle East.
And in Jerusalem, visiting New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik said yesterday that his force has been on an “enhanced alert” for attacks on Jewish institutions in New York for some time and will maintain it as long as Israeli-Palestinian fighting continues. Kerik is here on a solidarity visit and said he moved up it up earlier to “send a clear message – you can’t be intimidated by terrorism. You shouldn’t cower to terrorists. People shouldn’t be afraid to come to Israel. This is part of the message that I wanted to send.”
Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.