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As for Sharon, retired Gen. Brent Scowcroft, who was national security adviser to President George H. W. Bush, did not like what he was seeing under the second President Bush. A master of discretion with the media, Scowcroft nevertheless saw fit to tell the London Financial Times on Oct. 14, 2004 that Sharon had Bush "mesmerized" and "wrapped around his little finger."
At the time, Scowcroft was chair of the prestigious President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and thus well positioned to watch the U.S.-Israeli relationship unfold. He was summarily fired after making the Sharon-Bush comments.
George W. Bush first met Sharon in 1998, when the Texas governor was taken on a tour of the Middle East by Matthew Brooks, then executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. Sharon was foreign minister and took Bush on a helicopter tour over the Israeli occupied territories. An Aug. 3, 2006, McClatchy wire story by Ron Hutcheson quotes Matthew Brooks:
"If there's a starting point for George W. Bush's attachment to Israel, it's the day in late 1998, when he stood on a hilltop where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, and, with eyes brimming with tears, read aloud from his favorite hymn, 'Amazing Grace.' He was very emotional. It was a tear-filled experience. He brought Israel back home with him in his heart. I think he came away profoundly moved."
Bush made a highly revealing reference to that trip at the very first meeting of his National Security Council (NSC) on Jan. 30, 2001. After announcing he would abandon the decades-long role of honest broker between Israelis and Palestinians and would tilt pronouncedly toward Israel, Bush said he had decided to let Sharon do whatever he saw fit to do.
At that point Bush brought up his trip to Israel with the Republican Jewish Coalition and the flight over Palestinian camps, but there was no trace of concern for the Palestinians. In A Pretext for War, James Bamford quotes Bush: "Looked real bad down there," he said with a frown. Then he said it was time to end America's efforts in the region. "I don't see much we can do over there at this point," he said.
As for Yasser Arafat, he quickly became bête noire for Bush, and Vice President Dick Cheney, as well as for Sharon. And the Israeli Prime Minister played Bush and Cheney like a violin and viola. A few months before Arafat's death, George W. Bush arbitrarily withdrew U.S. recognition of Arafat and the PLO as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people."
On July 18, 2004, in an interview in Le Figaro, Bush dismissed Arafat as a negotiating partner, saying, "The real problem is that there is no leadership that is able to say 'help us establish a state and we will fight terror and answer the needs of the Palestinians.'"
That departure by Bush was criticized by the European Union and Russia, who were part of the quartet leading negotiations between Israel and the PLO. Sharon had already said what Bush said.
Irony in Arafat's Death
On many levels, Arafat was very cooperative with Israel and the U.S., which is why he became so deeply despised by many Palestinians. They saw him as a sellout to Israel for going along with the land-grab sham (also known as "the peace process"), enriching himself and his cohorts in the process, and establishing a narrow, repressive and authoritarian regime.
Ironically, Arafat usually jumped when Israel said jump, but he wasn't able to deliver anything to his people, because the Israelis were not really interested in anything like the peace that most Palestinians envisage.
So Tel Aviv had a malleable puppet, but also an increasingly restive Palestinian population tired of no progress/reforms, worsening poverty, a growing popularity/respectability of relatively non-corrupt groups like Hamas and others opposed to Arafat, who had outlived his usefulness.
Here, with some dates highlighted, is a short chronology of important pre-Arafat-disposal events:
On Oct. 14, 2004, the usually taciturn Brent Scowcroft tells the Financial Times: "Sharon just has him [George W. Bush] wrapped around his little finger; I think the president is mesmerized." By then it was well known that Bush agreed with Sharon that Arafat had to be replaced. How much the Bush White House was aware beforehand of the circumstances of Arafat's demise is not known -- yet.
On Oct. 25, 2004, Arafat falls seriously ill from as yet unknown causes. He died on Nov. 11, 2004 of the identical unknown causes. Shortly thereafter, Arafat's relatives and friends -- and countless others -- speculated that he died an "unnatural" death.
It is well known that Israel's Mossad has a branch of scientists and operatives who are experts in lethal poisons (shades of the Soviet KGB's "Mokryie Dela" [wet affairs] department). And, as is well known, the operatives in Israel's Knocking-Off-Iranian-Scientists Branch have been chalking up merit commendations, so to speak, over recent years.
Senior Israeli officials take considerable pride in this "wet-affairs" capability, and have taken to brag about it. On Jan. 11, 2012, for example, Israeli armed forces chief Benny Gantz warned Parliament: "2012 is expected to be a critical year for Iran," mentioning the nuclear issue and "continued international pressure" on Iran. Still on Iran, Gantz made a point of adding "things that happen to it unnaturally."