Israel Again Yanks The
Leash On Congress
By Terrell E. Arnold
In a move designed to pass a wicked law without consideration by either the Congress or the public, Congressman Sensenbrenner (R-WI) has buried two nefarious schemes in a single piece of legislative sleight of hand. His vehicle is the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill. That emergency funding bill itself is a less than honest one. It is a White House move to keep the public eye off the costs of the Iraq war; it includes Asian tsunami relief, but keeps both costs out of the Bush Federal budget request, thus making the budget look at least $100-150 billion smaller than it actually is in the real world. As such the bill is likely to receive the most cursory attention from the Republican controlled Congress before passage.
Sensenbrenner's ploy is to put the House passed version of the Real ID Act (HR 418) into the House version of the supplemental appropriation legislation sent to the Senate. This act is basically a back-handed way to implement Federal standards for the preparation and issue of state identification documents such as a driver's license, and it is a potential invasion of personal liberty. Under the protective cover of the money bill, the Real ID Act would pass into law virtually without Congressional discussion, and certainly without public comment.
Second, within the Real ID Act, Sensenbrenner wants to prevent any member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) from ever entering the United States. Historically there was language in the Immigration and Naturalization Act that provided PLO members could enter the United States with a waiver that could be used by the White House or the State Department whenever deemed appropriate to the country's business. The prohibition is in the Real ID Act, but the waiver authority is missing. Thus, all PLO members could be refused admission to the US regardless of reason for an entry request, and regardless of the legitimacy of the request.
In proposing this law, Sensenbrenner is, no doubt advisedly, applying a Zionist view of the PLO as a terrorist organization, while ignoring or trying to denigrate the fact that now the PLO is the principal membership strength of the Palestinian movement behind Palestinian statehood. The PLO grew out of the Fatah organization founded by Yassir Arafat. It became the visible face of the Palestinian movement once the Camp David talks, promoted by President Jimmy Carter, initiated a serious peace process. Like Sinn Fein for the IRA, the PLO became the political arm of the Palestinian movement and was increasingly dedicated to securing a Palestinian state.
If the law is enacted as now proposed, no PLO member, including Mahmoud Abbas, the elected Prime Minister, would be allowed to enter the United States, nor could any other of a dozen or more important potential participants involved in arranging a peace agreement with the Israelis. That law could also make trouble for countless Palestinians who are already in the United States, and whose family members may wish or need to visit.
Aside from the insult of such a law at this time, the real blow of the law would be its effect on Palestinian expectations. Abbas, who already has enough trouble convincing the militants, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or the Al Aksa Brigades, to refrain from violent attacks, would find them even harder to persuade that there is any truth in the US sponsored Road Map or in Bush or Sharon promises at Aqaba.
Moreover, the peace process already has been jeopardized by Israeli moves to secure areas of East Jerusalem as part of Israel, lands the Palestinians consider the grounds of their future capital. In addition, Israeli leadership recently announced that it would proceed with construction of 3500 new homes in the West Bank, again areas that have been Palestinian for centuries. At the same time, US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, who earlier said the new housing was inconsistent with US policy, has reversed her stand and moved essentially to a "facts on the ground" position, meaning the Israelis are free to continue settlement activity.
The net effect of the vibrations coming out of both Tel Aviv and Washington is that there is no serious Israeli intent to find a peaceful solution in Palestine and no serious Washington support for peace. Rather, an obvious purpose of the Israeli announcements on new housing, partly designed, to be sure, to placate the settlers and their supporters, is to keep the Palestinians uneasy. Real skeptics of any serious Israeli intent to reach a settlement with the Palestinians would assert that the whole purpose of the new housing announcement is to provoke Palestinian violence and to elicit added US cover for Israeli expansion in the West Bank.
That overtone resonates completely with the Rice reversal of position, and it would be strongly reinforced by passage of HR 418 with its prohibition on PLO entry into the United States. The message to Palestinians is that there is no give in the US position on support for Israel. As a final slap, no Palestinian representatives--unless of course they can prove they are not, nor have they ever been members of the PLO--can come to the United States to talk about their increasingly unjust situation.
Mahmoud Abbas has his work truly cut out for him. He has virtually nothing to offer Palestinian militants in exchange for an enduring truce, except the guaranteed further reduction in an already lacerated West Bank area that could become a Palestinian state. Even worse, those remaining and shrinking areas are miniature Bantustans (tiny enclaves in Israeli territory) among which the Palestinians can move only under the unending scrutiny of the Israelis. They will be reminded every day that they are a captive population as they watch ancient homes, olive and orange groves, and faltering dreams disappear in the dust of super American Caterpillar bulldozers.
If the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill passes the Senate with HR 418 included, Sensenbrenner and his Zionist and neocons friends will have triumphed through passage of an evil piece of legislation without any American public debate or input. The proposed law is simply unnecessary to protect the United States, and that the US Congress goes on responding to this kind of Israeli whip-cracking is in itself despicable. But that it passes such destructive laws in the name of the American people is even worse.
If you want to stop this bill before it drives the Middle East peace process into the ground, call your Congressman and Senator and ask them to vote against the Real ID Act and to strike the anti-PLO provision from any further consideration by Congress.
The writer is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer of the US Department of State and a regular columnist on Among his diplomatic assignments, he served as Chairman of the Department of International Studies of the National War College, and as Deputy Director of the State Department Office of Counterterrorism. He will welcome comments at



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