George and Laura, Ehud and Aliza

BY J. ZEL LURIE

The two couples, George and Laura Bush and Ehud and Aliza Olmert, were strangers. They spent a couple of hours privately in the White House getting to know each other.

Did they discuss the weather, how muggy Washington differs from dry Jerusalem? British diplomats in Washington get tropical pay. It was an unusually comfortable spring day in May, and the two couples were able to enjoy an interlude on the White House porch.

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Did they discuss their children as strangers often do? How they grow away from you and your ideals, but you still love them.

Did they discuss George Bush’s concept of bringing democracy to the Mideast? If they did it must have been short-lived. Democracy has brought bloody chaos to Iraq and a terrorist-dominated parliament to Ramallah.

Did they discuss the Palestine Anti-Terrorism Act, which the House of Representatives had just passed by an eight to one margin?

I doubt it because both knew that it was a farce.

Both knew that the Senate version, which was totally different, would prevail.

The rhetoric on the House bill, labeled H.R. 4681, was against Hamas but, by tying the terrorists to the Palestine Authority, headed by Mohammed Abbas, the act would hobble the administration’s ability to help the Palestine Authority.

The House version recalled George Bush’s Road Map of 2003 without mentioning it. The bill called on the Palestinians to end all violence unequivocally. But the Road Map was two-sided. Palestinian actions must be matched with Israeli actions.

The Road Map, to which all sides still give lip service, calls on Israel to “immediately dismantle settlement outposts erected since March 2001” and “freeze all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements).”

Peace Now has counted 102 outposts erected in the West Bank since March 2001. And the large settlement blocks adjacent to Israel will be enlarged, not frozen, when Ehud Olmert’s plans go into effect in a year or two.

George Bush’s Road Map of 2003 was effectively killed a year later when he gave his hekhsher to the large settlements adjacent to Israel. .

AIPAC revived the Palestinian provisions of the Road Map with no quid pro quo from Israel and without the customary provision for presidential waiver in the national interest. They got a few sponsors for the bill, which was introduced in the House on Feb. 1.

Heavy lobbying for co-sponsors was carried on by AIPAC for three and a half months. What AIPAC wants AIPAC gets. Robert Wexler came aboard on March 14, preceded by Clay Shaw on Feb. 28. Judith Biggert waited until May 9. The final count was 295 co-sponsors, and the vote on the bill was an overwhelming 361-27.

The few congressmen who turned down AIPAC’s aggressive lobbyists were called “supporters of terrorists. Rep. Bette McCullum, one of the two members of the House International Relations Committee who dared vote against AIPAC’s bill, strenuously objected to the insulting label. She wrote a letter in April to Howard Kohr, AIPAC’s executive, demanding an apology. Six weeks later, Gary Ackerman of New York, one of the original co-sponsors of the bill, brought them together and they made shalom.

Did the 361 representatives who voted for the bill know what they were voting for? Of course they did. The Israel Policy Forum had sent an analysis of the bill to every representative. The IPF said:

“We need to l) secure U.S. influence in the region, 2) promote the security of Israel, 3) advance Prime Minister Olmert’s goal of ‘disengagement’ from the Palestinian areas and 4) promote negotiations. This legislation works against each of these goals.”

This was clear enough. But the congressmen had an out. They knew that the Senate version, S. 2370, met most of IPF’s objections and more. The House bill would never become law. So why antagonize AIPAC by voting against it and be labeled a “supporter of terrorists.”

The Senate bill, which will probably be voted on before this column goes to press, among other things permits the administration to deal with Mohammed Abbas. Most important to me, according to Americans for Peace now which opposed the House version and supports the Senate bill, it adds a $20 million fund for the secretary of state “to support through Palestinian and Israeli organizations the promotion of democracy, human rights, freedom of the press, and non-violence among Palestinians, and peaceful co-existence and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.”

I have been supporting peaceful coexistence organizations for years. I will welcome the assistance of the secretary of state.

As for AIPAC, it writes disingenuously in its latest update: “Thank your representative for supporting PATA and urge your senators to vote for its Senate companion.” The vast difference between the two “companions” is brushed under the rug.

Another AIPAC imbroglio ends with the addition of a $20 million fund for organizations that AIPAC dislikes. I hope that it is not eliminated it by amendment or taken out by the House/Senate conferees after the Senate passes S. 2370.