by Paul Findley
A few days ago, emerging
from the latest fruitless Arab-Israeli summit,
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice blurted
bewilderment at the opposition of the Israeli
government to The Arab Plan, the most popular
proposal for a comprehensive settlement of the
Arab-Israeli conflict. Confounded by the
rejection, Rice said: “ I simply don’t understand
It was her most recent effort to soft sell the
plan. During the two years remaining in George W.
Bush’s presidential term, she can rescue her boss
from a bleak legacy as a failed war president and
help him win world praise as a peacemaker in the
Holy Land only if she drops the soft sell and
demands presidential tough love.
Bush can force the cooperation of all parties and
achieve a comprehensive settlement of the
Arab-Israeli conflict only by facing down the
Israeli government’s U.S. lobby. He must stand
resolute and bring the immense resources of the
presidency to force acceptance of the Arab League
Plan. It is an offer by all 23 Arab states to
establish normal, peaceful relations if Israel
returns to its pre-June 1967 borders, except for
mutually-approved land swaps near the pre-1967
By now it must be self-evident to Bush that the
Israelis will never experience true peace until
Palestinians are secure within their own
independent state. Perhaps Rice sees it, as I do,
as a bargain Israel should seize. But she may not
yet realize that Olmert follows pedestrian
intincts. He must be driven to the Arab League
Plan by political forces more menacing than the
firebrand Jewish settlers on Palestinian land. He
is a weak leader, under heavy assault at home for
the failure of his Lebanese invasion last year. He
is committed to cage the Palestinians behind
20-foot walls hoping this will break their spirit.
Rice’s confession at the recent summit suggests
that she overlooked two vital facts: first,
Israel’s rarely-discussed but firm goal--the
ultimate inclusion into Greater Israel all the
Arab land seized in the June 1967 Arab-Israel war.
except the Sinai, long since returned to Egypt;
and second, Israel’s firm control of U.S. Middle
East policy. Its power is subtle but raw,
sufficient to defend successfully Israel’s every
act while terrorizing into submission almost every
Nevertheless, considering the march of days and
weeks, perhaps Rice will soon grasp reality and
awaken President Bush to a rare chance to earn a
bright page in history. Long a close friend and
trusted adviser, Rice must persuade President Bush
how he can win that page without firing a shot. He
needs only to threaten to suspend all U.S. aid
until Israel accepts the Arab League Plan. Bush
has already taken steps in the right direction. He
is the first president to endorse an independent
Palestine. He repeated this pledge during his
State of the Union Address.
Two recent events should awaken Rice—and the
president--to the menacing role of the Israeli
lobby: first, the well-publicized debate over a
Study Paper on the Israel Lobby by two prestigious
professors, Stephen Walt of Harvard and John
Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago; and
second, the wide, continuing controversy over
former President Jimmy Carter’s latest bestseller
book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid..
Bush has the leverage that enables him to prevail
over any counterattack by Israel and its U.S.
lobby. As the prime target of Israel’s main lobby
in the early 1980s, I understand the lobby’s
resources, but long personal experience on Capitol
Hill convinces me that any U.S. president can
overcome the lobby by taking his case to the
American people. The president’s father, George H.
W. Bush, did just that briefly midway in his
Is Bush up to the task? In the waning days of his
administration will he demand a comprehensive
Arab-Israeli settlement? Can Secretary Rice turn
his attention from the hleak scene in Iraq to the
bright promise of the Arab League Plan?
Polls show Israeli support for the Plan is already
at 40 percent, while Palestinian support is over
70 percent. If the president acts decisively—a
talent he has already demonstrated –he will
The achievement will be so towering it will elicit
joy from all people of goodwill worldwide,
especially Muslims, and help restore America’s
moral authority to the high road where it belongs.
Because it would signal Bush’s commitment to
justice for Palestinian Arabs, it might lessen
anti-American insurgency among Iraqi Arabs.
On the president’s personal report card this
peacemaking would, I believe, substantially
counter-balance his ill-fated war-making.
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Paul Findley served as a Republican U.S.
Representative from Illinois from 1961-83. He is
the author of five books, including the Washington
Post bestseller, They Dare to Speak Out: People
and Institutions. Confront Israel’s Lobby.
He resides in Jacksonville, Illinois.