May, 17 2001
- On his visit here this week, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Manley stated that "without international pressure, the recommendations of the Mitchell Committee will probably not go anywhere." With this unfortunate statement, Canada not only outstripped Europe in rushing to pressure Israel, but also violated the spirit of the Mitchell report itself.
Manley did not specifically single out Israel for pressure, but his message was clear. Speaking at a press conference with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, for example, Manley declared, "I very strongly urged Mr. Peres to get me the ability to say that Israel is prepared to act on the recommendations of the Mitchell report, including recommendations on the settlements."
The opposition of European nations, Canada, and the US to settlements is, of course, nothing new. Over the past few months, however, most of these countries have come to understand that the Palestinian offensive is not a spontaneous popular uprising but the deliberate use of violence for diplomatic ends. Despite this, Western democracies - except the US - have gone along first with Palestinian demands to deploy an international force, and now with linking a settlement freeze to a cease-fire.
Canada is in a special position here, because its foreign policy is sometimes closer to Europe, and other times closer to the US. We certainly did not expect to see Canada leading the way with bellicose statements advocating pressure on Israel when it is trying to defend itself against Palestinian attacks.
What does not seem to dawn on the crowd of nations that rush to adopt Palestinian diplomatic positions is that they are helping to perpetuate the violence they so piously condemn. Willful ignorance is actually the more charitable explanation for this behavior; more likely these nations know better but do not really care that they are advocating rewarding violence.
Even the Mitchell report itself, when it comes to Palestinian demands to send an international force to "protect" them, states that "we believe that to be effective such a force would need the support of both parties." What the report should have said is that the surest way for the Palestinians to "protect" themselves would be to stop the shooting and bombing. But despite its determined avoidance of assigning blame where it belongs, the Mitchell report did at least recognize that attempting to impose concessions on Israel would not be "effective."
It is worth noting that just before US Secretary of State Colin Powell lit into to Israel for an "excessive and disproportionate" response to Palestinian mortar attacks, voices in Jordan and Egypt began to criticize Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat for continuing a war that was getting him nowhere. Since the US criticism of Israel and now the Mitchell report, the tables have turned and the pressure has shifted on to Israel to pay for a cease-fire.
Encouraged by the pressure against Israel, the Palestinians have stepped up their attacks. The government will have no choice but to step up its military pressure on the PA in response. In short, the result of the Western failure to hold the Palestinians responsible for ending the violence will be that more Israelis and Palestinians will die.
The idea, as it is often portrayed, that Israelis and Palestinians are equally responsible for perpetuating the "cycle of violence" collapses upon momentary examination. Everyone knows that if Arafat called for the attacks to stop, Israel would end its military and economic responses the moment it was clear that the shooting had stopped. The converse is not true: Unilateral gestures by Israel under the previous and current governments were not met by any reduction in attacks against Israel.
No matter how strenuously Western nations continue to avoid it, the reality remains the same: The Palestinians chose to resort to violence and bear the sole responsibility for its perpetuation. Pressuring Israel to sue for peace will not work, because every minister in this government understands that giving into violence will not bring peace, only more violence. If Canada and other Western nations sincerely want to see an end to the bloodshed on both sides, they must hold the Palestinians squarely responsible and back Israel's right to self defense.
©2001 - Jerusalem Post