"The path of peace is preferable to the path of war."
~ Yitzhak Rabin, November 4, 1995
President George Bush and the United States are in a serious situation in Iraq for one reason only: neoconservatives will permit no dissent.
Neoconservatives used their presidential appointments and Vice President Cheney to silence the CIA and Defense and State Department intelligence services, all of which disagreed with the neoconservatives’ case for invading Iraq.
The invasion did not result from faulty US intelligence. The invasion resulted from the neoconservatives’ confidence that they alone are right.
While neocon policymakers closed down US intelligence, their allies in the neocon media proceeded to silence dissenters. People with contrary views, no matter how well informed, were branded unpatriotic and anti-semitic.
Anyone who questioned the plan to invade Iraq was said to be for the terrorists and against Israel. Some neocon media shills even went so far as to declare that an American could not be both patriotic and against the war.
By branding their opponents "anti-semitic," neocons created a false picture of Israel as a closed society committed to war.
Ariel Sharon creates the same false picture of Israel when he declares: "There has never been room in the Middle East for pity or mercy."
But there are other voices in Israel. Many other voices, voices that are tired of Sharon’s insistence on war.
"Israel has gone mad," declared the Israeli newspaper Maariv when Sharon used helicopter gunships and F-16 fighter jets against Palestinians in Gaza.
"Is it conceivable that some among us now consider the entire Palestinian population our target?" asked a commentator in Israel’s largest circulation daily newspaper.
Avraham Burg, speaker of Israel’s Parliament from 1999—2003 and a Labor Party member of the Knesset, recently condemned Sharon’s intransigence and reliance on violence as being the main threats to Israel’s continued existence. It is not possible, he says, for Israel to steal Palestinians’ land and expect Palestinians to peacefully acquiesce: "A state lacking justice cannot survive. More and more Israelis are coming to understand this as they ask their children where they expect to live in 25 years. . . . The countdown to the end of Israeli society has begun."
"The Israeli nation today," writes Burg, "rests on a scaffolding of corruption, and on foundations of oppression and injustice." Violence cannot answer injustice, Burg says. "We could kill a thousand ringleaders a day and nothing will be solved, because the leaders come up from below, from the u2018infrastructures’ of injustice and [Israeli] moral corruption."
An English language version of Burg’s statement is available in the International Herald Tribune, September 6, 2003.
Many Israelis believe that Sharon has gone overboard with violence because the US government no longer serves as a check. Bush’s neoconservative policymakers agree with Sharon that violence is the solution. Blown out of his "secure" hotel in Baghdad by rockets, US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz vows to crush Iraqi resistance to US occupation.
But violence hasn’t delivered for Israel. Israeli commentator Ran HaCohen recently tallied the results of Israel’s assassination policy: 10 Hamas activists terminated and 180 Israelis killed in retaliation.
Avraham Burg says: "We cannot keep a Palestinian majority under an Israeli boot and at the same time think ourselves the only democracy in the Middle East."
Neither is invading Iraq the way to bring it democracy.
The Middle East is on the verge of wider war, because both Israel and the US have gone mad at the same time.
It could have been different. Eight years ago this November 4, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was greeted by tens of thousands of Israelis in Tel Aviv’s Kings’ Square with banners that proclaimed "Yes to Peace — No to Violence."
Rabin, a military man for 27 years, told the crowd: "I have always believed that the majority of the people want peace, are prepared to take risks for peace. And you here, by showing up at this rally, prove that the people truly want peace and oppose violence."
As Rabin descended the steps to his car, a right-wing Jewish student shot him in the back and killed him.
Violence begets violence. Today Israel is drowning in violence, as are we in Iraq.
Dr. Roberts [send him mail] is John M. Olin Fellow at the Institute for Political Economy, Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. He is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.