George W. Bush made another feeble attempt to show some sort of ‘even handedness’ between Israel and the Palestinians in his recent address to the United Nations. However, the very hard facts on the ground give daily evidence that Israel’s hard line policy of intransigence towards the international community and international law is funded, sponsored and politically supported by the United States.
Israel is maintaining and even intensifying its policy of targeted assassinations from the air. Every few days we are informed by the Israeli army that it has ‘eliminated’ such and such ‘terrorists’. Both Israeli and Palestinian sources then confirm that additional Palestinians, including women and children, were killed or injured for just being in the vicinity. Targeted assassination has become a routine affair and the fact that Israel had ‘progressed’ to the use on different occasions of smarter and smarter bombs and even unmanned aircraft missiles for this purpose hardly evoked comment. This extra-judicial means of execution, whereby the Israeli army can kill almost any Palestinian any time and any place, has not caused a ripple in the U.S.-Israeli relationship - though there might have been a negative comment about this sort of activity filed away somewhere in the U.S. Department of State.
Sunday night, September 19, 2004, an Israeli army helicopter missile killed a ‘Hamas militant’ from the Shati refugee camp. Hospital sources reported that they treated six wounded bystanders who were returning from a mosque. (Ha’aretz, September 20, 2004) A rather routine affair: no need for all the complications related to identification and accusation, no need for a court, a judge or any trial. No prosecution, no deliberation, just plain execution. The technical basis for this sort of thing is the possession of an arsenal of smart bombs, since it would be impossible to maintain that an individual had actually been targeted unless Israel was using one of the high-precision smart bombs.
Just a day later, Ha’aretz correspondent, Aluf Benn reported (Ha’aretz, September 21, 2004) that the U.S. is selling 5,000 smart bombs to Israel. Benn lists the bomb sizes, including, “500 one-ton bunker busters, 2,500 ‘regular’ one-ton bombs, 1,000 half ‘tonners’ and 500 quarter ‘tonners’… [Israeli] government sources said that the deal did not face any difficulties, despite the use Israel made of U.S. made F-16’s in some of the assassinations…the IDF used a one ton bomb to kill a senior Hamas officer, Salah Shehada, in July 2002 an assassination that also took the lives of fifteen Palestinian civilians, including children.”
This morning on Israeli radio, Ariel Sharon reiterated Israel’s thinly veiled threats to assassinate Yasser Arafat ‘at a time and a place that is convenient to us’. The U.S. President, for his part, preferred a more diplomatic approach and called on the world to stop supporting Arafat. The justification for the ‘targeted elimination’ of terrorists who were originally defined as ‘ticking time bombs’ now covers any and all Israeli enemies and opponents. This policy is conducted with the technical ordnance supplied to Israel by the United States. Sharon says that he has the right to assassinate Arafat whenever he sees fit. Sharon doesn’t care if the international community will conclude that his threats are actually Washington’s real policy towards the elected leader of the Palestinian people.
For Whom These Bunker Busters?
Washington is pushing the United Nations to take action against the Iranian plans to create nuclear fuel. The U.S. is trying to prevent Iran from developing its capacity to produce atomic energy for civilian purposes by arguing that the relevant scientific processes can also then be used to create atomic weapons. However, the Iranian steps seem to be well within the country’s rights under the relevant international agreements. The U.S. and other countries refuse to be bothered by ‘formalities’, which support the Iranian position. But if the U.S. and its Western partners really wanted to speak to the heart of this matter, it would require them to address the very serious challenge of banning nuclear bombs from the entire Middle East. This involves, of course, the ‘little problem’ of the existence of a serious atomic stockpile of nuclear weapons in Israel. All eyes focus on the Israeli role, but not in the way that one would assume. The United States, instead of opposing the Israeli atomic arsenal, grants total and unqualified protection to Israel’s atomic status, directly encouraging the atomic arms race in the region. The U.S. is now playing a new and very dangerous game. It is threatening Iran by proxy and considering a strike against it by surrogate.
After Iraq, the United States appetite for another land war in the region has been greatly diminished. But, the Bushites don’t like to admit failure. “Some American analysts warn that the international community has only a year or two to stop the Iranian program from achieving self-sufficiency.” So what can be done? “One concern is that Israel, a member of the International Atomic Energy that has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and is presumed to have nuclear weapons, may decide to take the matter into its own hands, if diplomacy fails from deterring Iran from becoming a nuclear power.” The information is from an article, by International Herald Tribune correspondent, Graig S. Smith, who goes on to comment on the bunker busters supplied to Israel: “Those bombs could be used to destroy Iran’s underground nuclear facilities.” (IHT, September 22, 2004) Israel ‘may take matters into its own hands.’ But the Israeli hands are not empty – they hold United States bunker busters. It is just plain convenient for the United States to have in Israel an ally (an “enforcer”) which operates beyond the borders of international legality. This is the essence of the ’special relationship’ between the two countries