U.S. IS WRONG TO BACK SHARON
A ""Global Viewpoint" interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski
Zbigniew Brzezinski was the U.S. national security adviser to
President Jimmy Carter. He gave these comments to Global Viewpoint editor
GLOBAL VIEWPOINT: How dangerous is this situation now between Israel
and the Palestinians? Has it spun beyond control?
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: The situation is quite dangerous. First of
all, Yasser Arafat could well be killed in any effort to remove him from
the office where he is trapped. If he is killed, Mr. Sharon can then claim
it was an accident.
Second, the whole thing is degenerating into more widespread violence
between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and that's deplorable.
Third, Israel's international position is very badly damaged. A country
that started off as a symbol of recovery of a people who were greatly
persecuted now looks like a country that is persecuting people. Meanwhile,
the United States and Israel are becoming isolated internationally. This
could hurt America's ability to conduct its war on terrorism.
In the longer term, what worries me is that the Palestinians are being
turned, largely thanks to the efforts of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon,
into something like the Algerians: people absolutely determined to wage
urban guerrilla warfare brutally, ruthlessly, at any cost and at enormous
At the same time, the Israelis are becoming like the white supremacist
South Africans, viewing the Palestinians as a lower form of life, not
hesitating to kill a great many of them and justifying this on the grounds
The reactions on both sides are all out of proportion. It is a very sad
spectacle. Ultimately a spectacle of failure of American strategy.
GV: Can Sharon succeed in the occupied territories, or will he fail,
just as he did in Lebanon in 1982?
BRZEZINSKI: This incursion by the Sharon government reminds me very
much of Mr. Sharon's operation in Lebanon in 1982, in which he misled
his prime minister by defining the objective as different from his real
intention and actual conduct.
When we evaluate success or failure in such an operation, we have to look
at the totality of it. There's loss of human life.
But you cannot define the loss of human life only in terms of the number
of Israelis killed by brutal, savage, inexcusable Palestinian terror.
The fact of the matter is that three times as many Palestinians have been
killed -- and only a relatively small number of them were really militants.
Most were civilians. Hundreds have been children. To ignore this is to
feed the root of the problem -- each side feels that only its victims
Any solution must ultimately be political -- which means the problem cannot
be solved unilaterally by one side alone.
GV: But hasn't Arafat undermined the chances of a political solution
by not cracking down on terrorists?
BRZEZINSKI: Yes, there has been Palestinian terrorism , but the fact
of the matter is that we have also had deliberate, overreactions by Mr.
Sharon designed not to repress terrorism, but to destabilize the Palestinian
Authority and to uproot the Oslo Agreement -- which he has always denounced.
Therefore, we're dealing here with a political strategy by the Israeli
leadership designed to disrupt and undo the Oslo process.
Unless the United States steps in, not only
just with a procedural proposal of the Tenet plan and the semi-procedural
proposal of the Mitchell plan, but with a concept and of vision of peace,
the situation is going to get worse and worse.
GV: This political process should go forward even as suicide bombings
BRZEZINSKI: If we don't do that, then we make any so-called cease-fire
a hostage to any act of terrorism. It's absolute hypocrisy claim that
Arafat can put a stop to all terrorism. To put it mildly, it is poor information
on the part of President Bush to insist on that.
Arafat is cut off. Sharon is repressing the Palestinians. Yet terrorism
is not stopping. How is Arafat supposed to put a stop to it?
Yes, he probably has been evasive. He probably has been winking. His ability
to control the situation would be greatly increased if there was serious
movement toward political process in which the United States took the
GV: In U.S. eyes, should there still be a role for Arafat?
BRZEZINSKI: What's quite obvious is that Sharon's strategy since
September 11 has been to stigmatize Arafat as a terrorist and link him
to the U.S. struggle against terrorism.
I have no grief for Arafat. I've dealt with him. He's evasive; he's
elusive. But the argument that he could stop terrorism and bring it to
a halt and then go on from a prolonged procedural discussion into subsequent
political discussions is sheer self-deception.
The point is there has to be a political process concurrently with the
efforts to contain the violence. That means the U.S. stepping in, laying
on the table proposals that point both parties to some outline of a final
GV: How would you get Sharon to accept that?
BRZEZINSKI: Certainly by not endorsing what he's doing or winking
at it or acting in a way which is contradictory -- on the one hand giving
him the green light and on the other hand voting in the U.N., asking the
Israeli troops to withdraw from Ramallah.
That incoherence, in effect, gives Sharon the option to keep moving forward.
And if Arafat is killed in some encounter, he will become a martyr to
GV: Is the U.S. isolating itself by not opposing Sharon?
BRZEZINSKI: We can't ignore the fact that no country in the world
endorses what we are doing or endorses what the Israelis are doing. That
means that in some fashion either the whole world is seized with some
total misunderstanding of the situation or that the course that is being
pursued by Sharon with tacit American accommodation is not productive
or conducive to peace.
(c) 2002, Global Viewpoint. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate
International, a division of Tribune Media Services.
For immediate release (Distributed 4/2/02)