Michael Lerner and Cornel West claim they "dare" to question "America's almost blind support for Ariel Sharon's government." But that's a false premise -- from which they leap to an erroneous conclusion.
In a Nov. 11 op-ed piece, they also make the ludicrous charge that "liberal Democrats" are blocking "a serious public discussion of our Israel-Palestine policy." That's not even fair to liberal Democrats.
A serious discussion should at least start with some knowledge of history. Begin with this: "America" did not blindly support Israel during the Clinton years. Before Sharon became Israel's prime minister in 2001, the prime minister was the dovish Ehud Barak, whose arms Clinton twisted into pretzels at Camp David in 2000 to make him come up with an offer that Yasser Arafat -- then the most frequent foreign guest at the White House -- might accept.
Barak eventually offered Arafat much more than most Israelis would have been content to give away -- e.g., an independent state in virtually all of the West Bank and Gaza, a capital in Jerusalem and the dismantlement of many Jewish settlements.
Arafat turned down the offer -- and produced no counteroffer. Instead, he launched the most lethal wave of terrorism the Middle East has ever seen, and he has made it obvious to all but the deluded that he agrees with Hamas, Hezbollah and similar terrorist groups that the goal should be the destruction and elimination of the Jewish state. In response, Israeli voters handed Barak's Labor Party a crushing defeat, and the Likud's Sharon was installed in his place.
President Bush does appear to get along with Sharon. In particular, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the president clearly appreciates what it means to be a leader who every day waits to hear the next report of innocent men, women and children being massacred by suicide terrorists.
Nevertheless, Bush has made an extraordinary offer to the Palestinians. He has told them that they can have an independent state and that he will support that goal -- if they will only end their support for the mass murder of children as a means to that end.
Bush also has asked the Palestinians to rid their society of the stunning corruption that plagues it -- Arafat, as CBS's "60 Minutes" recently reported, did not become a billionaire by inventing a new Web browser. And Bush would like Palestinians to begin to construct democratic institutions such as a free press, an independent judiciary and tolerance for a political opposition.
The United States has supported one principle -- not blindly but with clear vision: The right of Israel to exist, a right that is taken for granted when it comes to every other existing state. Hamas and its ilk do not accept this. They candidly and specifically acknowledge that their goal is the elimination of the world's only Jewish state. They want that territory to become the world's 23rd Arab state, and to be added to the more than 50 states that are predominantly Muslim. They are cagey about what would happen to the Israeli Jews after that, but it shouldn't be hard to hazard a guess.