Council for the National Interest Foundation (of which I am proud to be
the current chairman) which was published in a full-page ad in
yesterday's New York Times as Page 8 of the Week in Review section
opposite the editorial page (Page 9). This is the third in a series of
six such ads that CNIF has contracted with the Times to be published at
two-month intervals throughout this year. The cost to CNIF is $45,000
per ad. They reach 1.8 million Times subscribers nationwide, and perhaps
three times that number of readers. The ads include a coupon section
appealing for financial support for this effort to change American
policy on the Middle East. If any of you cannot resist the urge to help
out, please send a check to CNIF at the address at the end of the
letter, or you can do it by credit card on the CNIF website:
http://www.cnionline.org. Be sure to make it payable to CNIF (and not to
CNI) because that is tax deductible by you as a contribution to a
non-profit educational organization.
What Next in the Middle East?
A Commission of Wise Men
August 13, 2006
Dear Mr. President,
We are Americans from all fifty states who are, frankly, ashamed and
puzzled by our policy in the Middle East. As Americans, we are sickened
that the region is in a state of humanitarian crisis with thousands of
innocent civilians needlessly suffering due largely to your inaction. We
believe that the absence of the United States in the period leading up
to the current crisis has been unprecedented in American diplomacy.
Upward of a thousand Lebanese and dozens of Israelis have died
unnecessarily and the crisis has been allowed to fester for far too
long. America and her allies could have negotiated a stand down by all
parties, including Syria and Iran, if realistic policies had been chosen
and the blame game avoided.
As Americans we are outraged at the sight of U.S. donated tanks, weapons
and advanced missiles being used without restraint on a civilian
population in violation of American law and agreements with Israel.
We agree with Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) who said last week,
“How do we realistically believe that a continuation of the systematic
destruction of an American friend, the country and people of Lebanon, is
going to enhance America’s image and give us the trust and credibility
to lead a lasting and sustained peace effort in the Middle East? The
sickening slaughter on both sides, Mr. President, must end, and it must
end now. President Bush must call for an immediate ceasefire. This
madness must stop.”
Mr. President, you have expressed concern and sympathy for the Lebanese
government, but your actions and those of the Secretary of State have
ignored international law and even the international consensus in
refusing to talk with elected representatives of the people of Lebanon.
It is time to open a direct dialogue with them as well as with both
Syria and Iran, whose participation is crucial to any lasting peace.
The Lebanon crisis has exposed the real issues between Israel and her
neighbors. Yet it provides a great opportunity to bring all of the
parties together and seek a final demarcation of Israel’s borders,
ending the occupations of Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria once and for all.
As Queen Noor of Jordan explained to talk show host Larry King,
“The Arab-Israeli conflict, the occupation of Arab lands, of Palestinian
lands, of Syrian lands, Lebanese lands is the core of the problems that
Israel has in the region and the core of the problems that the United
States is now having in the region. And unless that problem is resolved,
as so many of us have said for so long, no policies for reform, for
democracy, for a new Middle East can possibly succeed.”
Mr. President, limiting our efforts to finding a short-term solution to
the problems of Lebanon will only postpone further violence and
disruption in the area. That is not in the interest of the United States.
The best resolution of this crisis will be found in a regional approach,
not just disarming militia in Lebanon and Palestine. The Arab League
2002 proposal, leading to full recognition of Israel by all 22 Arab
states, remains a sound basis for any new U.S. initiative.
As the famous Israeli journalist Amira Hass has written recently,
"Israel's insistence to unilaterally lay down the rules in the region
perpetuates and deepens its character as an alien element within it.
Israel's future generations will continue to pay for this obstinacy."
Mr. President, we need an international peace commission, fully backed
by the United States, with members from the European Union, Israel, and
the Arab League, who would bring the parties together in face to face
negotiations, which have been proven to be the only way to resolve the
issues. The commission should remain engaged until peace is achieved and
the borders of Israel are defined.
You have avoided for too long the very real responsibility of the United
States to create conditions and a framework to end the occupation of
Arab lands by Israel. It is time for you to act on behalf of all of the
parties as well as long-term American interests.
President Bush, it is not too late to make a comprehensive peace
settlement between Israel and her neighbors your greatest legacy in
foreign affairs. Go for it, Mr. President. Go for it.
*Council for the National Interest Foundation ~ 202-863-2951 ~
1250 4th Street SW
Washington, DC 20024*
Robert V. Keeley