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.
“BUSH’S HOLY MISSION”
The continuation of the Intifada between Israelis and Palestinians, and the failure of all political initiatives, created a major problem for the US government in 2002, which was at the time preparing to attack Iraq. During a visit at the White House, king Abdallah of Jordan informed president Bush that he would have the complete support of Jordan for his upcoming war, but only if he managed to end the violence and guarantee the peaceful cohabitation of Israel and Palestine.
The third and last episode of the BBC series Israel and Palestine: After Sharon, What? examines the efforts of the Bush presidency to bring peace to the Middle East through the infamous “Road Map”. Bush’s plan had to be accepted initially by the government of Ariel Sharon that was going ahead with a second siege of Arafat’s compound in Ramallah, in return to Palestinian suicide attacks, only six months after the first siege. The documentary reveals the Palestinian leader’s burst of anger, after he saw Israeli tanks breaking down the gate of his compound: Arafat picked up an automatic rifle and headed towards the building’s exit, where he was stopped at the very last minute by his security guards.
Sharon, who wanted to keep Arafat as a “hostage” for as long as possible, “bargained” with the Palestinian negotiators and did not compromise until after the USA had put the pressure on him. The Americans also pressed the Palestinian authority to change its governance mode, resulting in Arafat handing over part of his authorities to the new Prime Minister Abu Mazen.
Having defeated the “tyrant Hussein” in Iraq, the US invited all sides to a summit in Aqaba, Jordan, in June 2003, in order to examine the “Road Map” plan. There, president Bush let the Palestinian prime minister know how determined he was to find a viable solution: “God told me… ‘George, give the Palestinians their state, bring Israel security and bring peace to the Middle East’ and by God, I will! I have a moral and religious obligation. And I will bring you the Palestinian state!”.
Despite his promises, president Bush didn’t manage to convince Sharon to stop building the West Bank wall nor restrain the attacks against Hamas, which led to a new outburst of the Palestinian organizations. The documentary features testimonies of members of Hamas who were planning suicide attacks, as well as testimonies of Israeli military officers who planned and carried out attacks on senior Hamas members. Sharon, taking advantage of the “decapitation” of the Palestinian group and Mazen’s resignation, as well as Bush’s “holy mission” to find a viable solution for the Middle East, went ahead with his own plans, and managed to convince the US president to assist him with them…