A Palestinian family reacts after Israeli bulldozers demolished their home in the Arab East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, Feb. 5, 2013. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Newly elected Israeli Knesset member Yair Lapid (l), leader of the Yesh Atid party, speaks to Naftali Bennett, head of the hard-line national religious party the Jewish Home, during a Feb. 5 reception in Jerusalem marking the opening of the 19th Knesset. (URIEL SINAI/GETTY IMAGES)
Richard Curtiss at work in his Washington Report office. (STAFF PHOTO D. HANLEY)
Then-Vice President Dick Cheney (l) and Likud chairman Benyamin Netanyahu, out of office at the time and serving as the official Israeli opposition leader, at a March 23, 2008 breakfast meeting at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III (r) shares candies with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief Murad Ebrahim during a Feb. 11 visit to the rebels’ stronghold in Sultan Kudarat on the island of Mindanao. (KARLOS MANLUPIG/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Emad Burnat views his five broken cameras in his documentary of the same name. (PHOTO COURTESY KINO LORBER)
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June 2004, page 9
Retired U.S. Diplomats Send Letter to President Bush
By Janet McMahon
AT A MAY 4 press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, seven retired U.S. foreign service officers—speaking on behalf of some 70 (and counting) of their colleagues—presented a letter written to President George W. Bush urging him “to reassert American principles of justice and fairness in our relations with all the peoples of the Middle East” (see box).
The letter, initiated by Washington Report publisher Andrew I. Killgore, former U.S. ambassador to Qatar, and executive editor Richard H. Curtiss, former chief inspector of the U.S. Information Agency, was prompted by President Bush’s April 14 endorsement of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s unilateral “disengagement” plan. The response was inspired by an April 27 letter to British Prime Minister Tony Blair signed by 52 retired British diplomats who called for a “fundamental reassessment” of Blair’s support for U.S. “policies which are doomed to failure” (see box on p. 39).
Speaking to print journalists and television cameras representing U.S. and international media were former Ambassadors Edward Peck, Killgore, Carleton Coon, Robert V. Keeley and Owen W. Roberts, and retired foreign service officers Eugene Bird, president of the Council for the National Interest, and Suzanne Olds.
All expressed deep concern for President Bush’s unprecedented abandonment of decades of U.S. commitment to working as an “honest broker” between Israel and the Palestinians. As Keeley described it, “Recently the honest broker and one side got together and decided in large measure the outcome of three of the four final-status issues.”
Killgore also criticized the exclusion of the Palestinians in determining their fate, and Bush’s agreement to allow Israel to keep five large settlement blocs in the West Bank. “You can’t ignore the Palestinians and have peace in the region,” he emphasized in an interview later that day.
In addition to extensive coverage in the Arab media, the letter was headline news in the British press. Little was heard, however, in the homeland of its signatories.
For a complete list of signers, visit the Washington Report Web site, <www.wrmea.com/letter_to_bush.html>.
Janet McMahon is managing editor of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.
Dear Mr. President:
We former U.S. diplomats applaud our 52 British counterparts who recently sent a letter to Prime Minister Tony Blair criticizing his Middle East policy and calling on Britain to exert more influence over the United States. As retired foreign service officers we care deeply about our nation’s foreign policy and U.S. credibility in the world. At the request of our government and military colleagues, we have added their names as well.
We also are deeply concerned by your April 14 endorsement of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s unilateral plan to reject the rights of three million Palestinians, to deny the right of refugees to return to their homeland, and to retain five large illegal settlement blocs in the occupied West Bank. This plan defies U.N. Security Council resolutions calling for Israel’s return of occupied territories. It ignores international laws declaring Israeli settlements illegal. It flouts U.N. Resolution 194, passed in 1948, which affirms the right of refugees to return to their homes or receive compensation for the loss of their property and assistance in resettling in a host country should they choose to do so. And it undermines the Road Map for peace drawn up by the Quartet, including the U.S. Finally, it reverses longstanding American policy in the Middle East.
Your meeting with Sharon followed a series of intensive negotiating sessions between Israelis and Americans, but which left out Palestinians. In fact, you and Prime Minister Sharon consistently have excluded Palestinians from peace negotiations. Former Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo voiced the overwhelming reaction of people around the world when he said, "I believe President Bush declared the death of the peace process today."
By closing the door to negotiations with Palestinians and the possibility of a Palestinian state, you have proved that the United States is not an even-handed peace partner. You have placed U.S. diplomats, civilians and military doing their jobs overseas in an untenable and even dangerous position.
Your unqualified support of Sharon’s extra-judicial assassinations, Israel’s Berlin Wall-like barrier, its harsh military measures in occupied territories, and now your endorsement of Sharon’s unilateral plan are costing our country its credibility, prestige and friends. Nor is this endorsement even in the best interests of the State of Israel.
It is not too late to reassert American principles of justice and fairness in our relations with all the peoples of the Middle East. Support negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis, with the United States serving as a truly honest broker. A return to the time-honored American tradition of fairness will reverse the present tide of ill will in Europe and the Middle East—even in Iraq. Because the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at the core of the problems in the Middle East, the entire region—and the world—will rejoice along with Israelis and Palestinians when the killing stops and peace is attained.