Look at it this way: every country that is dependent on the United States for its survival, as Israel is, should have the courage, and chutzpah, to stand up to Uncle Sam the way Sharon does. He must be the envy of every third-world leader from Afghanistan to Zambia, who, I am sure, secretly wish they, too, could ignore America's wishes the way he does -- and still get away with it.
No embargos here. There are no no-fly zones imposed on him. Eat your heart out Saddam!
"In defiance of the United States, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said on Monday that the Israeli Army would press on with its offensive in the West Bank, but later a senior government official promised the military would begin withdrawing from two areas," reported the New York Times on Tuesday.
I am sure that Afghanistan's interim leader, Hamid Karzai, must be saying to himself and his confidants that if he turned his back on America the way Sharon does, he would be back in exile faster than he can say "Pashtun."
Were it not for the American taxpayer, Israel would never be able to defend itself as it has, or to build and to purchase, or rather to be given, weapons and ammunition from the United States on the scale that it has since its inception in 1948. Every one of those M113 armored personnel carriers that we were able to see on those rare images on television as they entered West Bank towns and villages were made in the U.S.A. And every one of the M16 assault rifles that Israeli soldiers carried, along with every one of the bullets fired from those M16 rifles were also made in the U.S.A.
Yet, Sharon has the audacity to ignore direct requests from the president of the most powerful nation on earth. How many times did President George W. Bush ask Sharon to withdraw from the West Bank? Sharon's remarkably astute reply: Bush did not say "immediately."
On Monday, Bush urged Sharon to withdraw as quickly as possible from re-occupied Palestinian territories. "I am serious about this," said Bush pointing his finger to a gaggle of reporters as he toured the American heartland promoting voluntarism. Sort of reminded me of when my mother used to scold me, saying, "I am serious about this, young man." I knew I would get away with what I wanted, and with little consequences.
Likewise, Sharon ignores Bush. You have to admit, it takes courage. But then again, Sharon has always been a man of great courage.
He had the courage to prevent the international press from carrying out their duty in the West Bank, as journalists tried to report on the fighting. Israeli troops kept the press from areas they re-occupied, firing tear gas on a group of international journalists, ramming a CNN car, and prevented others from entering "closed military areas," going as far as shooting at some, wounding a Boston Globe reporter. So much for freedom of the press.
And while the fire is raging, the fireman, in this case Secretary of State Colin Powell, is taking a slow boat, or rather a slow plane to Jerusalem. Instead of flying full speed ahead to the conflicted area, Powell decides to stopover in five cities along the way, including Madrid (that celebrated center of Middle Eastern unrest).
The Secretary's actions prompted Morocco's King Mohammed VI to ask, "Don't you think it would be more important to go to Jerusalem first?"
Powell's actions are akin to asking the fire truck to stop for aspirins and a glass of water on their way to extinguish a raging inferno.
Do you think there might be here a "hidden" message from Bush to Sharon? I am simply asking the question. Anyway, I promised you this would be a short column. So I will leave it at that.
(The Culture Vulture is a weekly column written by UPI's Life and Mind editor, and reflects current trends or events. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org)