Palestinian Ambassador in Public Dialog with EIR
June 5, 2007
In opening remarks to the Washington, DC, Palestine Center Symposium on "40 Years After the 1967 War: The Impact of a Prolonged Occupation," Palestinian Ambassador to the U.S., Afif Safief cut through the usual rhetoric about the "Road Map," and the "peace process" by asserting that Israel has adopted the doctrine of permanently annexing the Palestinian lands up to the Jordan River. And, in a well-placed critique of the farce of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's frequent trips to his region, Ambassador Safief noted that whenever Rice says anything, National Security Council staffer Elliot Abrams tells Jewish Republicans -- don't worry, it's all process and no substance.
Reflecting on the anti-Franklin Roosevelt paradigm shift which occurred in U.S. policy towards the region after John F. Kennedy's assassination, Ambassador Safief related an anecdote from the biography of former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. She recounted that when she attended the funeral of John F. Kennedy, the new President, Lyndon B. Johnson, leaned over to assure her that now that he was President, there would never be a danger that the U.S. would repeat what "Eisenhower did" in 1956. What Eisenhower had done was to pressure Israel to give up its military attack, with France and Britain, on the Suez Canal.
Ambassador Safief also rejected the assertion that Israel had to act precipitously in 1967 because its existence was threatened. Facing off against Egypt, Israel had 3,000 bombers that could carry out six sorties per day, while Egypt had 1,000 bombers that could carry out only two sorties per day, he said.
Representing EIRNS , reporter Michele Steinberg asked the opening question, saying she agreed with Safief's characterization of the Israeli "rejection of Arab acceptance," and drew attention to the national drive to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney, which EIR supports, and which is now a bill in the U.S. Congress through Rep. Dennis Kucinich. Steinberg pointed to Cheney's Middle East advisor, who is an "author of 'Clean Break,' which seeks to eliminate the two state solution" completely. She asked Ambassador Safief whether he sees any chance for peace under this Bush-Cheney administration, adding that EIR does not see that chance.
Ambassador Safief answered by reiterating a challenge to the Palestinian leadership,-- they must see that a common position of courage, creative ideas, and the engagement of the intelligensia in the political process is vitally necessary. He commented that he has spent 18 months "on the lecture tour" on U.S. campuses and other locations, and sees that "this is a fight for the hearts and minds that we can win," and that the population is moving towards embracing justice.
EIR's comments about impeachment and the Kucinich bill resulted in a broad discussion among participants after the formal symposium ended.