Israeli Democracy or Else..

How convenient. Whenever they don't like a "regime" they "take him down" and simply impose another one. Who cares about what people think, about what true democracy dictates, about international law and the norms that govern mankind. America did it before, and the results were fabulous. For Heaven's sake, they have changed leaders and have forged elections around the world for decades and have sold it as "democracy". Refer to Noam Chomsky for much more on this, but for now, Israel, the "Middle East's only democracy," is testing its luck with this magic recipe with the Palestinians. But will it work?

During a mid January visit to Israel, US House minority leader Dick Gephardt claimed to be on a peacemaking mission in the Middle East to "narrow the gap" and "revive the peace process", yet once arrived to Tel Aviv, the man's real voice kicked in as he began blasting Palestinians, their violence, their leadership. Of course Gephardt became the darling of Israeli media, a celebrity who knows how to agree with Israel and disagree with everything Palestinians say or do.

So the peace crusader refused to meet with Arafat for he failed to "put in 100 percent effort to end the violence." He urged Arafat to "see a different way and start to act differently" to end the violence."

Gephardt of course cared little about the political implications of what he said and did, and whether they violated the qualities that must be possessed by a peacemaker. However, the leading American official was no amateur, he knew that the Israeli lobby back in the US is watching him every step of the way, calculating his moves and studying his words for a judgment to be caste once he is back in Washington: a ravish dinner party and promise of campaign funds or nasty statements and demands of explanation.

American officials are aware of this game, and since they only pay attention to what affects their political careers, they behave in accordance. As if Gephardt's words were not enough, he had to spice it up a little, to become one of the highest-ranking American officials who backs Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon's campaign to make President Yasser Arafat "irrelevant" and seek other alternatives.

So here you have the Israelis, masters in deception and propaganda, and the Americans with their long experience in turning world leaders to irrelevant figures so that they can easily be replaced by "democratically imposed" new ones.

Gephardt was still willing to meet a few Palestinians, secretly, some whom he categorized as "the other Palestinians that may have the potential to bring about peace." Is there such arrogance in the whole world to match this? I doubt it. But of course, Gephardt was treated like a hero in Israel. Palestinians on the other hand, although aware of the scheme, were left wondering who are those "other Palestinians" who are willing to betray their people to meet secretly with Gephardt to plot a democratic coup.

Sharon flew to Washington to culminate his anti-Arafat campaign on February 6, and was preceded by Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer who traveled great distances just to instigate anti-Arafat rhetoric among Israel's supporters, and to gather momentum for Sharon's destructive, bulldozer-like politics. And once more, the need for "alternatives" was all over the place.

Ben-Eliezer advised both the United States and the European Union to "keep the pressure on Arafat" while at the same time opening an ongoing dialogue with other Palestinian leaders. "This will create a reality in which all the messages and all the dialogue will be with this same leadership which surrounds Arafat, the leadership which Arafat is blocking from discussions and from the negotiation table," according to Ben-Eliezer.

The Defense-Minister was asked after a meeting with Secretary of State Collin Powell on this alternative leadership, so he went on naming Abu Mazen, Abu Ala, Jibril Rajoub and Mohammed Dahlan as reported by the Israeli daily newspaper Ha'aretz.

In the school of Americas, many learned the American craft in toppling leaders and imposing others democratically. The Iraqi opposition is still working on it, and God only knows what they are cooking for Afghanistan once the term of the Hamid Karzai's interim government is expired. But trying it with Palestinians? Bad idea.

You see, Palestinians have suffered tremendously and have paid a great price for their struggle to attain their rights and freedoms. They will not stop at such an advanced stage in their struggle and bow their heads to Gephardt and Ben-Eliezer.

It's true that an Israeli sniper might succeed in killing Arafat, after all, they are a few feet from his headquarters in Ramallah, but the Israeli army altogether cannot impose an "alternative leadership" on Palestinians for long. Interestingly, such alternatives were imposed repeatedly by Israel throughout the years, some survived for months, and others for weeks.

No, Arafat is not the issue here; instead it is the Palestinians right to determine who represents them and who doesn't. The United States government never respected such rights when it was confronted with stubborn leaders who refused to bow; Israel is now doing the same. Palestinians might not have much to fight with, but they have their will, a quality, Mr. Gephardt, that cannot be bought or sold, even with all the millions that Israeli lobbies in Washington can offer.

The author is the Editor-in-Chief of

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