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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom

Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace



Perspectives from the President


March, 2003

The War, Israel, and Possible Futures

By Marcia Freedman

Nothing at all is clear yet about the progress or the outcomes of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Least predictable is how this war will affect the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But here is a possible scenario. In return for its support of the Bush administration's rush to war, the United Kingdom, our single major ally, will demand a payback, and there is already evidence that the price demanded is renewed and vigorous U.S. support for international intervention, currently with its locus in the so-called "road map" to establish a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel by 2005. The war in Iraq has forced Britain to pressure the U.S. to support an imposed international settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

It also seems likely that the State Department will try to keep the U.S. from itself becoming a pariah state by repairing its relationships with the United Nations and, more importantly, with the European Union and Russia. These are the three other components of the Madrid Quartet and authors of the roadmap. The President has now committed himself to this course many times, once just prior to the invasion of Iraq, and since then at his press conference with Prime Minister Tony Blair.

There are only two possible futures for U.S.-Israel relations given Israel's current far-right-wing government.

One is that the current cooperative relationship between Prime Minister Sharon and the President Bush will prevail. The Bush administration will continue to acquiesce to the demands of Israel and its supporters in the organized American Jewish community to postpone the establishment of a Palestinian state until impossible Israeli demands are met-a total end to all Palestinian violence and an end to any participation of Yassir Arafat in peace negotiations. In this scenario, Israel will dilute the concept of a "Palestinian state" to something very different than what the authors of the roadmap had in mind, since Sharon has openly stated that he is only prepared to recognize a discontiguous Palestinian State on only 40% of the West Bank and 70% of the Gaza Strip. This is a Palestinian state which would be unacceptable to either Secretary of State Powell or any Palestinian leadership.

In the second future the Bush-Sharon relationship is headed for a serious clash. If the Bush administration chooses to give priority to mending U.S. standing in the world community, it will have to proceed relatively quickly to carry out President Bush's commitment to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. President Bush will have to press Israel to make this possible by putting a complete end to settlement activity and by withdrawing its armed forces from populated Palestinian areas, the two immediate demands of Israel stipulated in the roadmap.

If the second scenario is the actual future, then the Israeli Prime Minister will be facing a defining choice. He can either reshuffle his cabinet so as to oust those members in his current coalition adamantly opposed to the establishment of a Palestinian state (including many within his own party) and bring in the Labor Party in order to meet the conditions of the Madrid Quartet's road map. Or he can maintain the current coalition, face off against the Bush administration, and try to wear down and postpone the peace process one more time so that more and more "facts on the ground" can create conditions making the establishment of a viable Palestinian state impossible.

In either of these scenarios, the role of the American Jewish community is very important. Our organizations, our, leaders and members of our communities will have to take a position on how Israel should respond. We may well be moving toward a major moment of truth.

Marcia Freedman is a former member of the Israeli Knesset and the President of the Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace.

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