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23 avril 2002 — Il y a eu une controverse feutrée à Washington après la participation de Paul Wolfowitz, n°2 du Pentagone et leader des super-faucons de l'administration, à la manifestation pro-Israël du 15 avril à Washington, devant une foule de 100.000 personnes. La manifestation était extrêmement radicale, et Wolfowitz se trouvait au côté de Benjamin Netanyahou, qui effectue une tournée de promotion de la cause israélienne aux USA. (Netanyahou, ancien premier ministre israélien, a pris une position maximaliste. Il reproche à Sharon d'être trop modéré.) Il y a eu un discours de Wolfowitz, avec des remous. Wolfowitz s'est fait siffler lorsqu'il a déclaré qu'il fallait aussi considérer le sort des Palestiniens, que la plupart d'entre eux étaient compromis par des terroristes irresponsables et ne devaient pas être confondus avec eux, qu'ils souffraient également. Ces propos modérés et conciliants pour les Palestiniens n'ont pas plu à la foule.

Wolfowitz a été attaqué de deux côtés pour sa participation :

• Par les plus extrémistes des pro-israéliens, pour avoir dit des paroles conciliantes et compatissantes pour les Palestiniens.

• D'une façon plus générale et dans un sens inverse, pour avoir participé à une manifestation organisée par un lobby d'un pays étranger (le lobby pro-israélien) en tant que membre de l'administration, et ès-qualité.

Une interview (par Eric Schmitt) de Wolfowitz a été publié dans le New York Times, et diffusée par le Pentagone le 22 avril. Une partie de l'intervention est directement et précisément consacrée aux circonstances ayant conduit à l'intervention de Wolfowitz. Il s'agit de points de détails sans importance en temps normal, dont l'évocation si précise pourrait surprendre à première vue. L'explication est évidemment que tout cela est évoqué à la demande implicite de Wolfowitz, qui tient ainsi à faire savoir qu'il n'est pour rien dans la décision conduisant à sa présence à la manifestation, qu'il y a été délégué par l'administration, et même par le président lui-même ; cette explication vaut autant pour les ultras pro-israéliens qui l'accuseraient de modération excessive, que pour ceux qui l'accusent d'usurper ses fonctions.

Cet épisode nous indique clairement deux choses :

• que les batailles internes au sein de l'administration sont extrêmement vives, impliquant la maison-Blanche comme un des acteurs plutôt que comme un arbitre.

• que les extrémistes neo-cons, dont Wolfowitz est le chef au sein de l'administration, sont loin d'être seulement des manipulateurs, comme on les en accuse. Ils sont aussi manipulés et peuvent être utilisés comme bouc-émissaire d'une radicalisation temporaire et tactique de la politique de la Maison-Blanche (dans le cas qui nous occupe, pour calmer les critiques des républicains conservateurs).

L'interview de Wolfowitz ayant été repris par le service d'information du Pentagone, on peut en déduire que Rumsfeld soutient Wolfowitz dans cette affaire, ce qui est d'ailleurs logique. Ci-dessous, nous publions le début de l'interview, le passage consacré à ces explications de Wolfowitz. (Dans le texte : Carl Rove est le secrétaire général de la Maison Blanche, Condoleeza Rice la conseillère du président pour la sécurité nationale, Steve Hadley est du NSC et Richard Armitage n°2 du State department).

Interview de Paul Wolfowitz, par Eric Schmitt, du New York Times

Q: Again, thank you very much for your time.

We really were interested in the speech and kind of the timing of all of this obviously coming in the midst of what's going on in the Middle East, Secretary Powell's trip. I wondered if you could maybe just start with the origin of the speech. I heard you were asked on Friday to come up with something within basically 48 hours for the Monday rally.

Wolfowitz: Yeah.

Q: Talk a little bit about how that evolved. Who asked you and when did you get the word?

Wolfowitz: Carl Rove called up and said we just had a meeting with the president and he wants you to speak to this rally, and it became clear that the ''wants you to'' was very firm. So it was Friday afternoon and we basically had 48 hours to get it done.

Q: What was your assignment? Did you know about the rally at the time or did you have ...

Wolfowitz: Actually it was the first I heard of it. I did not know it was happening. The whole thing I think was pretty spontaneous. And I guess to this day I don't know the thoughts that went into the pros and cons of speaking there. I could guess ...

Q: It's interesting that Carl Rove called you and not Condi Rice.

Wolfowitz: No, actually, I said isn't there anyone else who could do it? He said no, Condi's the only other choice and she was in the meeting and you weren't. [Laughter] ... No, I think he was a messenger.

Q: So when you, did they give you any sense of how they wanted you to address this group, or was that really up to you?

Wolfowitz: I think it was up to me to figure out and we worked pretty much all weekend, different phases, came up with – when I say we it definitely includes me. I had a draft that I took home Sunday night and worked a long time on. And Monday morning

gave it to Steve Hadley and Rich Armitage for clearance, and both of them said it was fine.

Q: Did they change anything?

Wolfowitz: No.

Q: Was there anybody, anyone at the White House or State or even here at Defense that thought you maybe shouldn't speak, that this was putting you in a difficult position?

Wolfowitz: No, I don't think so.

Q: Any reservations expressed by the secretary here or ...

Wolfowitz: I in fact told Rumsfeld and he said go do it.

Q: We'll talk a little bit about the crafting of this speech. I was told you were going to get a brief down at Fort Bragg, I guess. You were juggling a lot of --

Wolfowitz: I spent most of Sunday down in North Carolina.

(...)

Q: I know a lot of people interpreted you as being the envoy or the emissary for the president in the speech as an attempt to kind of mollify some of the conservative critics who had challenged the administration's Middle East policy [inaudible] the Israelis [stopped] their campaign there. ... What's going through your mind as you draft your remarks in terms of trying to strike that balance? Addressing a group with

a pro-Israel solidarity speech, but a group that's also, a rally that puts them critical with Secretary Powell's Middle East peace effort.

Wolfowitz: I'm not sure it was. I think there were a lot of different views out there, some more vocal than others. And in fact the organizers very specifically said it's not a rally to

criticize the administration. I think if it had been we wouldn't have gone. And it was described as, and I think it was a rally to show support for Israel and a concern for Israel, which clearly the president shares. And I think it's important both for that audience, but actually also for the foreign audience, that is to say the Israeli audience in this case, well actually the whole foreign audience, to make it clear that he shares that concern. At the same time this made my job more difficult than any other speaker at the rally. I had to try to present the whole range of our policy and not just the part that is sympathetic to Israel. And I guess that's what drew the strong audience reaction.

Q: What was your reaction to that? You're obviously one of the most pro-Israel figures in the administration, identified as such. What did you feel like --

Wolfowitz: You know, can I say I don't like that label? I'm pro-American I think. I think everyone in this administration is sympathetic and supportive of Israel and every one of us also understands that we have interests that aren't necessarily the same as Israel's. But I believe very strongly that quite fundamentally it is important to recognize the humanity of both sides in a conflict. That's why I said what I said. I also think that's U.S. policy. And I also knew that passions have been stirred to a point that that would be a difficult passage for the crowd. I suppose there was a little more audience interaction than I nticipated. But I knew it would be a hard thing for some of them to hear.

I would also say no one was going to cheer that line in that crowd, but there were an awful lot of people who came up to me afterwards from that crowd who said thank you for saying that. It was important to say that also.

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