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Who Are We, Indeed

U.S. involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

by Jonathan Wilson
June 26, 2002

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Who Are We, Indeed_Jonathan Wilson-U.S. involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. President Bush has gone on record as declaring Yasir Arafat unfit to govern the Palestinian people. I respect President Bush for making this statement, because it is true and it has always been true.

The Palestinians are angry. Perhaps they are angry that President Bush is telling the truth. Perhaps they are angry at what it means when the President of the United States stands on a principle. Normally, when the President of the United States stands on principle, the sponsors of terrorism and chaos are losers.

I think, though, that the world is understandably angry with the kind of power that is weilded by the President of the United States. In many places around the world, governments feel only a tenuous grip on power. It is tenuous because of parliamentary rivalries, or it is tenuous because of unsettled territorial disputes and ethnic rebellions, or as in the case of Arafat the grip on power is tenuous through sheer illegitimacy. No one is more secure in power than America's four-year president. When the President stands on principle, governments collapse and economies crumble. When the President cowers from principle, different governments collapse and different economies crumble.

Palestinian anger is not rage against the truth of Arafat's villainy. It is rage against the power of the President of the United States to have so clear and present an impact in their immediate lives, more so than many Americans feel.

In April President Bush commented in interviews that Americans were not the people to choose the leader for the Palestinians. He said, "Who are we?"

Who are we, indeed. By divesting support and isolating the Palestinian Authority, the American President has given Israel permission to do the same. Did Israel need America's permission? No. And yes.

With Noriega in Panama, and Milosevich in Yugoslavia, and the efforts of successive administrations against Castro and Hussein, the American President is exercising veto power over the self-rule of autonomous governments. The President may not be choosing their leaders, but unchoosing leadership comes close.

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