Executive Summary #1575
August 14, 2002
In a landmark speech on June 24, President George W. Bush signaled that the United States was no longer willing to recognize the leadership of Yasser Arafat as effective in efforts to secure peace in the Arab-Israeli conflict. The President condemned Palestinian authorities for "encouraging, not opposing, terrorism" and called on the Palestinian people "to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror."
In the eyes of the Bush Administration, Chairman Arafat has been a monumental failure as leader of the Palestinian people and a huge disappointment to the international community. Instead of promoting peace and economic reform, Arafat's Palestinian Authority has supported terrorist organizations and actions and fostered an environment of conflict, fear, intimidation, and poverty in which the rule of law is nonexistent and corruption is endemic.
President Bush's speech, combined with reports of U.S. plans to take military action against Iraq, has evoked strong opposition in Europe. Members of the European Commission joined leaders of the United Nations and Russia in vociferously rejecting the President's Middle East policy. Regardless of Arafat's connections with terrorism, Europeans continue to assert that they would continue to deal with Arafat if he were to win the presidential election in January. The European Union believes there can be no talk of an Iraq war until peace has been brought to the Middle East. These reactions bring into sharp focus the widening gulf between the United States and the EU over a wide range of key foreign policy issues.
President Bush at this time must keep the focus of the country firmly on the war against terrorism and continue planning for U.S.-U.K. military action against Iraq. He must not let the Arab-Israeli conflict distract him from the main goal of defeating al-Qaeda and extending the war against terrorism to rogue states that threaten regional and global security. America must avoid getting bogged down in a Middle East peace process and focus instead on the wider war against global terrorism.
The European Commission and the European Parliament in recent months have displayed an overwhelming anti-Israel bias and a visceral hatred for the leadership of Ariel Sharon. Israel has become a pariah nation in the eyes of many EU politicians. The overtly anti-Israeli rhetoric of the European Union, combined with the EU's huge financial investment in the Palestinian Authority, suggests that the EU cannot be seen as an honest broker in the current Middle East crisis. This raises serious doubts over the neutrality of the European Union in any future peace efforts in the region.
European hostility toward Israel also reflects deep-seated resentments within the EU's ruling elite toward U.S. global power. For many in Europe, support for the Palestinian Authority (and opposition to a war with Iraq) is an important symbolic gesture of defiance against the Bush Administration's foreign policy. After months of being sidelined in the war against terrorism following the September 11 attacks, the European Union is keen to be seen flexing its muscles in a region where it believes it has political and economic influence.
The Bush Administration must remain firm in dealing with the EU's objections and continue displaying its clear leadership in the war on terrorism. The United States should work closely with its strongest ally, Great Britain, on the Middle East and not allow disagreements with the EU over Palestine to deflect consideration of military action to address Iraq's growing threat to peace.
Dr. Nile Gardiner is a Visiting Fellow in Anglo-American Security Policy in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation.