President Bush reversed course yesterday and urged Israel to end its violent invasion of Palestinian lands immediately. He also announced that Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell would travel to Israel next week.
The first half of the Rose Garden speech appeared to be no different from any other as he explained Israel’s need to defend itself and said that the situation that Palestinian president Yasser Arafat finds himself in is largely of his own making. He said, "Since September 11, I’ve delivered this message: Everyone must choose; you’re either with the civilized world or you’re with the terrorists."
But he then called on Israel to end its invasion of Palestinian cities. He told Israel to stop all settlement activity and withdraw to U.N. recognized borders. And he told Israel to show respect and concern for the dignity of the Palestinian people, and make efforts to spare "innocent Palestinians daily humiliation".
Meanwhile, Washington insiders have revealed that an emissary from Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah warned the US it could never again use any Saudi military base against Iraq if it didn’t stop the fighting in the West Bank. Insiders also say that Bush feared long-term allies Egypt and Jordan could be destabilized by protest. And Iran’s leader Ayatollah Khamenei called on Arab states today to launch a one-month "symbolic" oil embargo against Western countries to pressure them to stop supporting Israel.
Powell is expected to see Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
- President Bush, press conference 04/04.
- Stephen Zunes, senior policy analyst and Middle East editor at Foreign Policy in Focus and chair of Peace and Justice Studies Program at the University of San Francisco.
- Yifat Susskind, Associate Director, MADRE, an international women’s human rights organization. Yifat is an Israeli currently living in Brooklyn, NY.