WASHINGTON – The Bush administration, faced with international pressure and opposition by peace, labor and civil rights activists at home, has been forced to retreat on its policies toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

However, in a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on March 17, Vice President Richard Cheney placed the onus on Palestinian President Yasir Arafat, demanding that he halt the resistance of his people as a condition for meeting with him. Cheney was silent on Israel’s two-week assault on the West Bank and Gaza, in which more than 100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed, by 20,000 Israeli troops, armed with Apache helicopter gunships, F-16 fighter bombers and other U.S.-supplied weaponry.

U.S. peace advocates called the joint news conference a dangerous threat to world peace.

Scott Lynch, communications director for Peace Action, told the World, “Arafat represents the only governmental authority in the West Bank and Gaza. There is no one else there. This is akin to the administration saying it is not going to do anything to resolve this crisis.”

Lynch said that the administration is “taking us down the wrong path with their radical annihilation approach.”

Referring to the reasons for Cheney’s travelling to 11 Arab nations last week, he said, “There is still a war in Afghanistan and now they want to unilaterally start another war against Iraq.” Lynch added, “We find it especially troubling that so many American weapons are being used in the carnage. Even as dozens of people were dying each day, it took the Bush administration a week to send Gen. [Anthony] Zinni [Bush’s Middle East envoy] over there.” The only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, he said, is for Israel to withdraw from Arab lands occupied since the 1967 war clearing the way for creation of a Palestinian state co-existing with Israel.

Michael Letwin, co-coordinator of New York City Labor Against the War (NYCLAW) said his organization is mobilizing to bring thousands of union members to Washington D.C. April 20 to protest the Bush administration’s war policy at home and abroad. Letwin, president of United Auto Workers Local 2325, which represents Legal Aid attorneys in New York City, added, “Clearly the Sharon government has been acting to provoke higher levels of violence. As long as Palestinian territory is occupied and there is no Palestinian state, there will be no solution. The Bush administration has given Sharon a blank check to inflict terror on the Palestinian people. It is American money, weapons and influence that is responsible for this war.”

The San Francisco Labor Council, AFL-CIO, approved a resolution Mar. 11 denouncing the Bush administration as the “main culprit in this struggle by supplying the Israeli State billions of dollars in arms to suppress the Palestinian struggle for both statehood and ancestral lands while oppressing and dividing the Jewish and Arab worker for the benefit of national and international capital.”

The resolution blasted the Sharon regime for an F-16 missile attack that severely damaged the headquarters of the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions in the West Bank town of Nablus Feb. 17. Sharon’s escalation, the resolution added, “has seen scores of women, children and other innocents murdered.” The statement reminds the U.S. government “that this is both a moral and legal crime.”

Hussein Ibish, media spokesperson for the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) told the World, “What the Palestinian people want and need is not tea with Cheney but the end of the Israeli occupation and the creation of a Palestinian state.” The ADC, he added, is mobilizing for demonstrations in Washington and Los Angeles March 30 to demand an end to the Israeli occupation and the creation of a Palestinian state side-by-side with Israel.