Israel Report

July 2002         

The Greatest Mideast Challenge

By Dov B. Fischer - July 1, 2002

The new state needed in Washington.

In his Rose Garden speech on Monday, the president outlined the much-anticipated Bush Plan for crafting a modus vivendi that will allow Israel and her Arab neighbors to proceed in peace. In many ways, the speech merely repackaged salient elements of Mr. Bush's several earlier Mideast plans, among them the "Mitchell Plan," the "Tenet Initiative," and the Louisville, Ky., address delivered by Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Ironically, though some pundits complain that this president has not shown leadership in the Mideast conflict, Bush probably has packaged and supported more Mideast plans in 18 months of office than any other president has in an entire career. Through all these "plans," in all their formulations, the president continually has insisted that Israel's Arab neighbors must end all terrorism — not just suicide bombings — and support a concerted movement towards peace, demonstrated by extended quiet on the ground.

In this third reincarnation of the Mitchell Plan, the president's vision has matured. He now recognizes that, for any movement away from terror to have lasting value, Palestinian Arab society must adopt and institutionalize the West's values of freedom, personal liberty, free markets, constitutional government, and an independent judiciary with the authority to interpret legislative enactments and to defend the rule of law.

But can the "Shaheed" society that has spawned a generation of self-detonating youngsters adopt far-ranging, Western-style governance? Alone among the Arab League nations — including the despots of Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Syria — will the denizens of the West Bank and Gaza blaze history's trails to synergize personal liberty and constitutional freedoms with the cultural strains of the Mideast milieu? It seems doubtful that, the next time an alleged "collaborator" is being beaten to a pulp by a frenzied mob on a Ramallah or Nablus street that has been renamed for a Palestinian Arab terrorist, a clarion voice will ring out: "But first we must read him his rights. Then we should convene a grand jury. And then, if an indictment is handed down, we must schedule an arraignment. And then he should be tried by his peers." To believe that such a development is within three years of fruition is to believe in great and wondrous things, verily.

The Bush Plan calls for establishing an independent "state of Palestine" in the West Bank and Gaza. Maybe it will take our foreign-policy experts an extra half-century to digest the point, but Washington eventually will learn that Arab residents in the disputed territories do not want a country comprised only of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. They refused that country when the United Nations carved it for them in 1947. They refused it in 1964 when they created the Palestine Liberation Organization to "liberate" the "Palestine" that consists of the state of Israel — not even bothering with the West Bank (which was under Jordanian occupation) or the Gaza Strip (then under Egyptian occupation). They refused it when former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak served it up to them in Washington on President Clinton's silver platter.

If the Arabs in the disputed territories have been telling us anything for the past half-century, it is that their homeland barely touches on Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. They want Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Lod, Acre, and Beersheba too. Their corrupt leaders have been lacking in a commitment to democracy and freedom, but they have been brutally honest on the question of land. Even where the Palestine Authority reigns supreme on the West Bank — as in Jenin and Bethlehem — they continue to maintain on-site "refugee" camps because Jenin and Bethlehem are not home; rather, they are "way stations" on the march to Tel Aviv.

Still, if the Bush administration meticulously follows up on enforcing the president's requirements, we may conclude that Judea and Samaria will remain in Israel's hands. Every time a trial balloon has been floated for replacing Yasser Arafat, a broad-based Arab coalition has responded that Arafat is irreplaceable as the democratically elected leader of the Palestinian Arabs. Arafat apologists like Hanan Ashrawi and Saeb Erekat will not press him to resign. Similarly, "our friends the Saudis" have been bankrolling Arafat for years.

In time, Arafat nonetheless will pass from the scene. He is aged and manifestly feeble. And though it is not clear whether the leaders of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade similarly will move on, let us assume — without any basis — that they also will step aside. Even then, after all the terror-stained Palestinian Arab leaders have departed, and after all Palestinian Arab civilians have compromised on their expectation to extend "Palestine" to the Mediterranean Sea — no American Mideast plan will succeed until Washington finally starts following up on its demands for an absolute end to the teaching and transmitting of hate to the people living under the Palestinian Authority's control.

We continually have failed to recognize that Mideast peace ultimately is not about paper promises but about building a vigorous foundational societal framework that proactively promotes a new way of thinking about the Other. Through all the "peace processes" and "peace plans" Washington has endorsed and promoted since Oslo, we always have failed to demand with sustained follow-up that the educational systems and communications media of the Palestinian Arabs and other Islamist societies stop teaching children and young adults to hate the West. Even as we've been pumping more than $200 million of our tax dollars each year into the Palestinian Authority — and have sent hundreds of millions more to the "Palestinian refugee camps" of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency — we consistently have turned a blind eye to the way they use their schools, summer camps, and radio and television — even their "Sesame Street"-type shows — to promote the most vile anti-Jewish stereotypes and crude distortions of Western society.

The Bush administration's greatest challenge will be to create a new Mideast state in Washington, D.C. — a state of heightened Mideast awareness, of monitoring what is being taught and communicated in Palestinian Arab society and in the neighboring "moderate" Islamist regimes, and of vigilant follow-up on Mideast social progress. Mr. Bush has demanded "accountability" and "transparency," but he now must follow up with a zero-tolerance policy that allows no further umbrage or canard to pass unchallenged. Unless and until America demonstrates a Mideast state of follow-up — a refusal this time to turn a blind eye to the daily ration of hate spewed against us throughout Islamist society and in the West Bank and Gaza — no peace plan will stand a chance. The children reared on that free-flowing diet of hate will just keep blowing themselves up there and, like the 15 Saudis who engineered and perpetrated September 11, will continue to dream of bringing the same destruction here as well.

Dov B. Fischer, an attorney and political-affairs commentator, is author of General Sharon's War Against Time Magazine.

©2002 - National Review


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