As Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ignores President George W. Bush and the United Nations, I recall the jab of an Arab diplomat a few years back that "the United States is a colony of Israel." It is now a toss-up of whether Mr. Bush is more handcuffed in the Oval Office or Yasir Arafat more constrained in his Ramallah compound. The far-Right faction of the Likud Party, which wants nothing less than the elimination of a Palestinian presence on the West Bank, is now directing the action with impunity. The faction is led by former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and counseled long-distance by his friends in the United States, including the War Party intellectuals who control the Pentagon. My guess is that Richard Perle, chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board, is advising both Sharon and Netanyahu that there is no need to worry about the gent in the Oval Office -- because there is nothing he can do about the big push for permanent Israeli sovereignty on the West Bank and Gaza.
As Pat Buchanan has pointed out, the President can be more and more stern in his admonitions to Sharon to pull out of the West Bank, but as long as Palestinian suicide bombers succeed, Sharon can ignore him. And the suicides will continue as long as Israeli troops demolish Palestinian settlements. The President can yell all he wants at Arafat to do something from his jail cell, but Arafat has been emasculated by Sharon. You need only read the WSJournal editorial page to learn the War Party's intent, which is to allow Israel free rein, once and for all, to get to a final solution. President Bush could theoretically confront Sharon directly, announce a cutoff of aid to Israel, announce an arms embargo, sanctions of one kind or another. But he of course won't. Chris Patten, director of the European Union's foreign section, has now threatened trade sanctions against Israel, which does strengthen Bush's hand a bit. If the President could find
some formula to drive a wedge between Sharon and Netanyahu, there may be hope. That is what Secretary of State Colin Powell is trying to find as he confers with Sharon and with Arafat, some way to get the Palestinian extremists under control while Sharon is acting in ways to make them more extreme. Buchanan is probably right that there will be a point of no return, where we see either the President or the Prime Minister give way. The President really needs a new national
security team, but who is going to tell him that?
ON TO IRAQ? It is easy to see that Saddam Hussein is not at all worried about irritating President Bush, with his 30-day cutoff of oil exports to protest Israel's actions on the West Bank. Saddam is not playing to the U.S., but to the Arab and Islamic masses who are being inflamed by the Israeli war against the Palestinians. The Arab states have chipped in $30 million to hand out to the families who have lost suicide bombers or killed or wounded civilians in this horrific intifada, but it is Saddam who is getting credit among the Islamic masses for sending $25,000 to the families of the "martyrs," and $10,000 to the others. Saddam has always been a smart politician, else how could have survived 28 years in power, and he has the clear support of the Iraqi people. Now that even Kuwait and Turkey oppose U.S. intervention in Iraq, one might arguably say that Saddam has become the de facto leader of the Islamic world. He is now for peace, for reconciliation, ready to work with the UN on arms inspections, offering cooperation to end terrorism. He may soon have his sights set on the Nobel Peace Prize. Kidding, of course, but only to underscore the problems President Bush will have in arranging any kind of coalition to "do Iraq," as the Perle people like to put it. For background you probably do not have, see my
Tuesday website memo on how Saddam, a U.S. ally, became the enemy, when he won the war with Iran.