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Olmert should have stayed Home

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Ehud Olmert never should have been invited to Washington. He shouldn't have been given a platform to spout his defiance of UN resolutions. The Bush administration does the country a disservice by rewarding leaders who ignore the international community and carry out their own self-serving agenda.

This doesn't mean that Israel should be bombed into the Stone Age like Iraq, or that Olmert should be targeted for regime change. And, it doesn't mean that the Israeli people should be collectively punished with lethal sanctions like those that are being levied against the Palestinians. It simply means that Israel should be isolated as much as possible until it complies with UN resolutions to return to the 1967 borders.

Olmert's appearance in Washington is a setback for the United States as well as the cause of peace in the Middle East. It undermines our credibility in the Muslim world and makes our foreign policy look hypocritical. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the center of the turmoil that is extending through the entire region. The administration's favoritism has poisoned the atmosphere, making the battle for "hearts and minds" that much more difficult.

Olmert was given a hero's welcome when he entered the House of Representatives. If anyone in the audience had read the Amnesty International report issued earlier in the day, they certainly didn't let on. The report stated that, "Israeli soldiers, police and settlers who committed unlawful killings, ill-treatment and other attacks against Palestinians and their property commonly did so with impunity".Investigations are rare, as were prosecutions of the perpetrators, which in most cases did not lead to convictions." The report suggests that severe human rights abuses are being carried out against Palestinian civilians that go completely unanswered by Israel. These issues are taken seriously nearly everywhere except in the US congress where human rights abusers are revered as the champions of liberty.

Olmert's speech followed the usual formula of demonizing the Palestinians while portraying Israel as the victim of a 60 year struggle against fanatical Arabs. No mention was made of the countless checkpoints that dot the West Bank, or the thousands of Palestinians languishing in Israeli prisons, or the boycott of food and medical aid that is strangling the territories. Instead, Olmert limited himself to tough-talk on terrorism and praise for the US-Israel alliance.

At times his speech was absurdly ingratiating:

"The United States is a superpower whose influence reaches across oceans and beyond borders"Our two great nations share a profound belief in the importance of freedom and a common pioneering spirit deeply rooted in optimism".It is impossible to think of a world in which America was not there, in the honorable service of humanity."

Behind the smarmy rhetoric, though, Olmert was busy giving the US another black-eye by authorizing more violence in the occupied territories. As he delivered his speech the AP reported another attack in Gaza. This time, three Palestinian civilians in the same family were killed in an air raid on an alleged terror suspect. Nahed Mahani and his family were out driving his new car when the vehicle was hit by shrapnel from a surface-to-air missile fired from an unmanned drone. The explosion killed his grandmother, his mother, and his daughter. Three generations were wiped out in one blast.

The next day, another four more Palestinians were gunned down by Israeli troops in a gangland-style hit in Ramallah. 30 innocent passers-bye were injured in the attack.

Olmert is obviously so confident in America's unwavering support for Israel he didn't even suspend his homicidal attacks while visiting Washington. While he was flattering congress to their faces, the killing-spree was unfolding in the territories.

The rest of the world isn't fooled by Olmert's pretensions. They see the bodies being carted off in ambulances in Gaza; they can connect the dots. They see congress' enthusiasm as a clear endorsement for the policy of targeted assassination; a policy that civilized nations universally condemn as barbaric. Only the congress is taken in by this ruse.

The substance of Olmert's speech was known weeks in advance. It's another reason that Bush should have canceled his trip. Olmert wants American support for his plan to unilaterally draw Israel's permanent borders. He also wants to persuade congress to launch preemptive military strikes against Iran. His requests are illegal, immoral and run counter to the national interest. Congress should have been outraged, instead they were ecstatic.

On the issue of borders, Olmert offered a terse ultimatum:"If the Palestinians fulfill their commitments and obligations they will find us a willing partner in peace. But if they refuse, we will not give them a veto over progress, or allow it to take hope hostage".We cannot wait for the Palestinians forever".

"We cannot wait forever"?

Notice that the requirements of UN resolution 242 are completely ignored as is the obligation to decide final status issues with the Palestinian leadership. Instead, Olmert uses intentionally misleading language that was invented in right-wing think tanks ("realignment", "convergence", "disengagement") to conceal the real objectives which are to incorporate occupied land within Israel's borders. The language was minted to elevate land-theft to a level of respectability.

Congress applauded Olmert's plan. UN resolutions mean nothing to them. Just day's earlier, they passed The Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act; a piece of legislation that was vehemently opposed by centrist Jewish groups in America. The bill cuts off all US aid to the cash-strapped PA ensuring that innocent women and children will continue to suffer from the blockade. The bill "shuts down all Palestinian diplomatic offices in the U.S., denies visas to PA officials, and"declares Palestinian territory to be a 'terrorist sanctuary'" (Jim Lobe)

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Mike is a freelance writer living in Washington state.

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