The three most brilliant speechwriters of George Bush prepared last Thursday's speech of the President. Let's call them Tom, Dick and Harry.
Tom's job was to make certain that the speech would not offend the pro-Israel lobby (both the Jewish and the Christian-fundamentalist). Dick saw to it that the speech would conform to the President's style and intellectual heights, attained mostly from Westerns. Harry came from the State Department and was charged with safeguarding the interests of the United States, which, after all, must also find some place in a presidential speech.
"The President must intervene," Harry said. "This business starts to become dangerous for us!"
"Terrorists! All terrorists must be rooted out!" Dick cried.
"The Arab governments are in panic!" Harry reported. "You can't imagine. Stormy demonstrations all over the place. They could easily get out of control. The President must stop Sharon before this happens."
"Don't exaggerate," Tom pleaded. "It's not really serious. All these Arab rulers live on our handouts. The money is much more important to them than what's happening to the Palestinians. They know that one little hint from the Jewish lobby will be enough for Congress to take all the billions away."
"Everyone who is not with us is a terrorist!" Dick cried. "Terrorists must be rooted out! They kill the future!"
"When the Arab masses are roused, it's no laughing matter," Harry pleaded. "If the fundamentalists topple the government in one Arab country, say Jordan, all the good guys in the Arab world will fall, one after the other, like domino pieces. Nice words are not enough anymore. Sharon must be told to stop."
"O.K.," Tom sighed. "But he must be given another few days. A week or two."
"That can be arranged," Harry agreed. Let's say: The President sends Powell to the Middle East, and in the meantime Sharon can go on. Powell will not go immediately, he has to pack his things. The general is very pedantic and the packing will take a week. On the way he has to make courtesy calls on his friends, another week. In the meantime Sharon can kill as many Palestinians as his heart desires."
"So we are agreed," Tom summarized. "The President will call for an end to the incursions, but will not say 'immediately' or 'now'. That will give Sharon all the time he needs, and our Jews will be satisfied."
"But we must make sure he does not kill Arafat!" Harry remembered. "That would be terrible. It could incite a general uprising throughout the Middle East!"
"Terrorist!" Dick cried. "Arafat is a terrorist! He has chosen the way of terrorism! He has betrayed the future of the Palestinian people! He..."
"We have a problem," Tom interrupted. "Sharon is eager to kill Arafat. He wants to settle a personal account. His general, what's his name, Mofaz, wants to 'throw him out' straight to Paradise."
"My God," Harry groaned, "that would cause a disaster! Our embassies will be bombed all over the world. No airplane will be safe in the skies."
"Perhaps it can be handled," Tom pondered aloud, "We will send Zinni to meet with Arafat. Afterwards there will be an incident, the Israeli will try to arrest the 'wanted' people in Arafat's office, shots will be fired, Arafat will be killed accidentally. Nobody will be able to blame us."
"Perhaps," Harry was doubtful. "But the reaction could be violent and push oil prices up. That would be disastrous to our economy, as well as to Europe's and Japan's. Our people don't care about dead Palestinians, but five dollars more for a gallon could kill Bush at the next elections."
"Terrorism!" Dick interjected, "Raising of oil prices is terrorism against the Free World!"
"The most important thing is that the President won't say a single good word about Arafat," Tom urged. "He must curse him. He must say that Arafat is to blame for everything, including his own imprisonment. Not a single good word about Arafat! Otherwise the Jews will get very angry."
"O.K.." Harry agreed. But in return, the President must spread a lot of schmaltz about Arab dignity, the humiliation at the checkpoints, and how wonderful Prince Abdullah is. That will get these tiresome Europeans to shut up. He must speak about the Palestinian State and about freezing the settlements."
"I have no problem with that," Tom agreed, "provided that he'll speak about it as a vision for the remote future. In the meantime Sharon will fill the country will settlements and kill off the Palestinian leadership."
Harry touched another subject. "There is this Syrian business. CIA sources tell us that Sharon is preparing a tremendous strike against them. He is only waiting for the Hizbullah to provide a suitable provocation."
"Good. The President will say some hard, but not overly hard words about Syria. That will serve us as an alibi if Sharon really attacks there."
"Terrorists!" Dick contributed his part. "All the Syrians are terrorists! Hizbullah, too! And the al-Aksa guys, and Hamas and the how-do-call-it organization! Everybody! All the Arabs are terrorists!"
Uri Avnery is an Israeli journalist, peace activist, and former member of the Knesset