In June 2003, during his first meeting with Palestinian prime minister Abu Mazen, US president George Bush appeared certain that he would successfully bring peace in the Middle East. Besides, according to Mazen, Bush had a very strong ally in this effort: “God told me, ‘George, go fight the terrorists in Afghanistan’, and I went. And then he told me ‘George, put an end to tyranny in Iraq’, and so I did. I can hear him say now ‘George, give the Palestinians their land, bring security to Israel, and bring peace to the Middle East’, and by God, I will! I have a moral and religious obligation. I will bring you the Palestinian state!”.
Bush’s “holy mission” is presented amongst others in the documentary series “Israel and Palestine: After Sharon, What?”, that examines the historic developments and the course of the peace process in the past six years. One after the other, it presents the lost chances for peace: from September, 2000, when Ariel Sharon’s visit to the holy for the Arab world Temple Mount in Jerusalem, that sparked off the second Intifada, until today, that the formerly mighty prime minister lies helpless in hospital, freezing all developments in the Middle East…
In the three episodes, presented by Reportage Without Frontiers, the protagonists – presidents and prime ministers, their secretaries and generals, but also people behind suicide attacks – shed light on the events and reveal the conflicts and diplomatic games that went on in the background of political negotiations.
“ARAFAT AND SHARON”
In 2002, US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, made it clear to president Bush that if he wanted his plans in the Middle East to go through, he would firstly have to come up with a solution in the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Al-Aqsa Intifada went on for the 18th month in a row and Powell decided to send general Anthony Zinni as a special envoy to the occupied territories, in order to achieve a cease-fire deal between Israel and Palestine. But one before his arrival, a ship carrying guns that, according to the Israeli government, were destined to the Palestinians, almost blew the whole effort off.
The second episode of the BBC series Israel and Palestine: After Sharon What?, examines the efforts of the government of Israel to get Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat out of its way, as well as the Palestinian resistance efforts. The documentary shows the preparation of Basset Odeh, a member of Hamas, who in March 2002 was responsible for one of the deadliest suicide attacks in the history of Israel that triggered the merciless retaliation of the Israeli army.
The prime minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, found the opportunity he was looking for to isolate his Palestinian enemy, and gave orders to his troops to attack the “Muqata” - Arafat’s headquarters in Ramalah - keeping him a “prisoner” under siege for more than a month. At the same time Sharon launched a fierce attack on the city of Jenin, the “birthplace of Palestinian terrorists”, and did not allow any humanitarian help to reach the Palestinians who were trapped in the destroyed city, crying out for help against the “massacre” by the Israeli army.
The documentary features Powell’s attempts to put the pressure on both sides for a cease-fire, and reveals the political games that the USA were playing in order to gain the favor of its two most important allies: of Israel, who wanted to avoid at all costs a UN inquiry in Jenin, and Saudi Arabia, that was putting the pressure on the US for Arafat’s release. Bearing the upcoming war in Iraq in mind, president Bush found a solution that satisfied all three parties: Sharon’s forces would pull out of Ramalah, but an inquiry would never be conducted on the events of Jenin…