JNW Editorial - Jerusalem - May 16, 2003
Israel lives in the real world in which, if the nation is to survive, it must call a spade a spade.
Let's take a closer look at what it is being called.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon talks about Israel's willingness to make "painful concessions" in order to try (note try) and make peace with the Palestinians.
Colin Powell calls them "compromises."
Other world leaders call them "risks for peace."
It's not clear what risks, compromises or painful concessions the Palestinians have made or are being asked to make in order for them to reap the benefits of living in peace with their Jewish neighbors.
People who never comprised a nation and thus never had a national home are being given a national home all of their own. In order to acquire this home, they don't have to pay any money, and when they take possession of it they will not only get the keys to its doors, but will get immunity from prosecution for all the pain, suffering, terror and death they have sowed in their quest to receive it.
The compromises/concessions Israel is expected to make comprise a short but devastating list:
Israel, who has lost nearly 1000 of its people to acts of Arab terror in the past two-and-a-half years alone, and who has seen many thousands more wounded, must agree to pull its forces out of the terrorist breeding grounds, thereby radically increasing the risk of renewed widespread attacks on its people.
In actual fact, not only will Israel's withdrawal increase that risk, it will without question lead directly to more violence resulting in the loss of more Jewish lives and the dismemberment of more Jewish families.
So the "compromises" Israel must make will include payment in Jewish blood. Bottom line here: Israel is being asked to accept the sacrificing of Jewish lives to appease Arab hatred. That the deaths will do nothing of the kind is really almost academic.
That's painful concession number 1.
Next, the Arabs insist that their new state will be judenrein - free of Jews.
Israel, who, in wars of self defense took Judea, Samaria and Gaza from the hands of occupying Arab states who had no right to be there, and who has since poured billions of dollars into founding beautiful modern towns and cities with homes for hundreds of thousands of its people on state-controlled and not privately owned lands, will have to agree to pull those people out of their homes, transfer them to behind the 1967 borders, probably in many instances by force. And Israel will have to find the enormous amounts of money needed to compensate them for the homes and lands they have had to lose.
So, Israel has to give away billions of dollars worth of cultivated lands and physical structures together with power grids and water supplies and gardens and roads to Arabs who have not spent a cent on any of that infrastructure and who insist that it is their right to inherit it, and that it is Israel's obligation to relinquish those rights to these communities and to foot the bill for doing so.
This is painful concession number 2, another risk Israel must take for peace. Needless to say, if that risk is not rewarded with peace (as it won't be) Israel will not be able to walk in and reclaim what is rightfully hers.
And then Israel, whose national identity was forged in Shechem and Hebron and Bethlehem and Shiloh and Bethel; Israel, the founders of whose faith lie buried in those Judean hills, and whose ancestors ruled and reigned over those lands before being driven from them by their Roman occupiers; the Jewish people, who for millennia, scattered everywhere across the globe, faithfully prayed every single day to return to these lands - Israel is being told to close the door on the 4000 years of its history and kiss those lands goodbye.
It matters not how many reams and volumes have been written claiming the Arabs have national rights to these lands, they have no such rights simply because they have never possessed these lands. They are not Arab lands - that is one of the most bald-faced lies of all time. They are Jewish lands, and the Jewish people are being asked to surrender them, to give them away, to turn their backs on them and let a people that has never been a nation take permanent possession of them for themselves.
And to add vinegar to gall, the precious land Israel is expected to relinquish so painfully will be received as a reward for their hatred and mass murder by the Arabs who will STILL see the Jews as sons of pigs and monkeys and who will STILL believe that eventually their Allah will give the rest of the Jews' lands into their hands.
This is concession number three.
It's not a misnomer to call these painful concessions. It's a deception.
For what Israel is being asked to "pay for peace" (a peace that will not come even if the payments are made) are excruciating, agonizing sacrifices - economic sacrifices when its economy is on the rocks, the sacrifice of its patrimony, its historical lands and the remains of its forefathers, and the sacrifice of the lives of its own people.
From such sacrifices no nation could recover; if Israel makes them, it will likely not survive. Certainly no other people has ever been asked, much less told, to do anything comparable at all.
Painful concessions, risks for peace, compromises - these all mean the same thing: In this instance they all spell "spade." The spade that would dig Israel's grav
Give a map to a traveler who is in a hostile environment, trying to find his way through shifting sands, and it isn't likely to be of much use to him. If, in addition, he is traversing earthquake country, he might as well throw the map away. Under such circumstances, he should concentrate on staying alive and using his common sense.
Unfortunately, the Middle East now resembles an area of shifting sands, with an occasional earthquake, more than an area of fixed topography in which a road map might come in handy.
Israelis remember another road map, drawn up at Oslo a few years ago, designating routes, milestones and dates of arrival. Its architects received the Nobel Peace Prize for that masterpiece but it has ended up in history's dustbin. It was overtaken by shifting sands and local earthquakes before it could become a useful navigational aid.
It is difficult to blame Israelis if some of the promoters of the latest road map arouse a certain degree of suspicion regarding their intentions and good judgment. The reference is, of course, to three in the quartet: the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations.
The abject behavior of the two leading members of the European Union - France and Germany - in the months leading up to the U.S. operation in Iraq will not be quickly forgotten. The mixture of narrow domestic political interests and just plain poor judgment hardly qualifies them as Middle East peacemakers. Russia's Putin followed in their footsteps for reasons best known to himself and Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, also did not distinguish himself during the past few months.
All of them have their own ax to grind and seem to believe that imposing a road map on Israel will permit them to stage a comeback to international respectability. That kind of a road map we certainly do not need.
The fact is, the region is unstable and, therefore, unpredictable. Will Yasser Arafat control his newly anointed Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas or will Abbas succeed in breaking loose from Arafat's control? Are Abbas and his security aide, Mohammed Dahlan, intent on taking on Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al Aqsa Brigades, and are they capable of overpowering them? One thing is sure: There will be no progress toward stability and peace until Palestinian terrorism ends.
During the past year, the Israel Defense Forces has proven it is capable of bringing about a very substantial reduction in acts of terrorism. Letting the Palestinians complete the job may at first sight seem like an attractive option, until we remember that this has been tried before with disastrous results. Now that the IDF is close to scoring a decisive victory over Palestinian terror, we should not permit defeat to be pulled from the jaws of victory.
Those who do not delude themselves into thinking that a detailed future can be mapped out for the Middle East might try to gaze over the horizon and examine some of the possible alternatives. A Palestinian state is not the only alternative, and may not even be the best for Israelis and Palestinians alike. For Israelis, it raises the fear of a terrorist state on Israel's doorstep, a springboard for acts of violence against Israel's civilian population. For Palestinians, it may mean a continuation of the disasters that Arafat's terror campaign has foisted on them these past few years.
Although the thought may cause heartburn in Amman, it should be remembered that Jordan is a Palestinian state in everything but name; that Judea and Samaria were annexed by Jordan after 1948 and remained an integral part of Jordan until the Six-Day War; and that Jordanian citizenship was bestowed on the population there.
Establishing a second Palestinian state may not be the only alternative regional future. At present, there is justified concern that the inclusion of additional Palestinians in Jordan might destabilize the Hashemite regime, which has been determined and effective in stamping out terrorism and maintaining peaceful relations with Israel. But that risk may decrease in time. It would certainly be easier to resolve some of the outstanding problems at issue between Israel and the Palestinians, such as border location and the status of Jerusalem, if Jordan were to be the partner for negotiations.
That does not appear on the road map being marketed at present, but may in time be more constructive and realistic.
L National Post Canadian political and media elites have a soft spot for Hezbollah. Last December, recall, our Foreign Ministry sought to block the murderous Lebanese outfit from being branded a terrorist organization because -- notwithstanding its long list of bomb attacks against Western targets -- the group's non-military wing engages in various humanitarian and political activities. When Hezbollah was banned anyway, the CBC tried to impugn the decision. TV reporter Neil Macdonald, for instance, wondered aloud whether the group was not a "national liberation movement" unfairly smeared by "supporters" of the Jewish state (whoever those might be). CBC Radio reporter Evan Dyer, meanwhile, called Hezbollah part of the "Lebanese establishment." When later questioned whether it was not also a terrorist group, Mr. Dyer demurred that the T-word has "[no] place in journalism."
Fortunately, such Hezbollah apologism has died away in recent months -- in part thanks to the group's militant posturing. On March 13, Hezbollah's Secretary-General, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, declared his organization's slogan "was and will remain 'death to America.' " The same month, Hezbollah's television network began running music videos urging suicide attacks against U.S. forces in the region, and an Argentine court declared there was evidence that Hezbollah had helped orchestrate the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community centre in Buenos Aires that left 85 people dead. (Jeffrey Goldberg had already reported much the same thing in The New Yorker. But as late as last December, Mr. Dyer was still insisting on CBC that he was in Buenos Aires when the bombing occurred, and it "had not been pinned on Hezbollah.")
And yet, here we are again. Yesterday, the National Post reported that an asylum applicant who had helped Israel fight Hezbollah in southern Lebanon has been branded a "war criminal" by Canadian immigration authorities. The Lebanese man, identified only as "Mr. X" by the Immigration and Refugee Board, is not accused of harming Hezbollah members directly. But he did supply Israeli intelligence with names and other information about Hezbollah during the period when the Israeli army occupied part of Lebanon to prevent attacks on northern Israel. According to a lawyer from Canada's Immigration Ministry, this means Mr. X was complicit in "crimes against humanity" perpetrated against Hezbollah members by Israel and an allied militia -- including torture and murder. The IRB agreed, and Mr. X was denied asylum.
For all we know, Mr. X has already been deported to Lebanon. (Indeed, he may have already been set upon by the Hezbollah thugs Canadian refugee law was supposed to protect him from.) But if he is still on Canadian shores, we hope Mr. X appeals the IRB's decision to the Federal Court. We are not usually a fan of dilatory refugee proceedings. But this is an exception. Hezbollah is a terrorist group: Our government has already officially declared as much. Mr. X should not be barred from Canada for assisting in the fight against it.
Indeed, Mr. X is doing exactly what we would expect any Canadian citizen to do under the circumstances -- provide information to the authorities about the activities of terrorists. Rather than condemning him to a life of imprisonment, or worse, in a Lebanese jail, perhaps we should put him on the payroll of our own intelligence service.
After every new terror bombing or drive-by murder committed by Yasser Arafat's thugs, few Israelis look to Washington and the latest peace plan for answers.
Instead, the immediate response is to check the progress of the concrete barrier being built along the seam line separating the Palestinian and Israeli populations in Judea and Samaria.
After the catastrophic failure of the Oslo "peace process" three years ago, the Israeli public has shown increasing support for a unilateral divorce, heralded by the construction of a fence extending from Afula to Jerusalem.
The government has moved slowly in grasping that this is the best, and probably the only realistic option. Discussions began five years ago during the Ehud Barak government, but construction only started last year, following public demands generated by the inhumanly brutal suicide attacks. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was and remains less than enthusiastic about unilateral separation, and funding problems have slowed the building process.
But continued public attention has kept the barrier at the top of the national agenda. The first 11-kilometer stretch from Jenin to Mei-Ami and Wadi Ara has been completed, with segments enclosing Jerusalem to be finished soon.
The rest, approximately 600 km., is in various stages of construction, but should be ready within the year. When complete, the combination of a concrete wall, trenches, electronic sensors and patrol roads will certainly impede terrorist access to Israeli cities. While the attention of diplomats and journalists is focused obsessively and mistakenly on peace plans and road maps, the reality on the ground is centered on unilateral divorce through the construction of the separation barrier. And while Sharon and other officials try to distinguish between security separation and a political division, once the barrier is built it will constitute a de-facto border.
Just like other borders around the world, whether negotiated or the result of war, this seam line will have a number of official crossings for the exchange of goods and, if conditions allow, the movement of workers, tourists, and other visitors. Instead of merely walking across from Kalkilya to Kfar Saba, or Ramallah and Modi'in, Palestinians will require passports and visas, or their equivalent.
SINCE NO barrier is impermeable, and some terrorists may still get through, under or over (using missiles), the IDF is also developing appropriate security measures. To prevent the manufacture of explosives and missiles, Israeli military forces will continue to operate as necessary on the Palestinian side of the barrier. Beyond the reduction in the terrorist threat, unilateral separation provides a credible response to the demographic threat, and the centrality of preserving the Jewish and democratic nature of Israeli society.
Without borders, the majority population in a single political entity between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River will soon be Palestinian, and eventually, Jews would become a minority in an Arab and Islamic state. This situation would reverse the historic accomplishments of the Zionist movement and the reestablishment of Jewish self-determination. Indeed, some Palestinians see the combination of perpetual negotiations and terrorism as a way to keep Israel in a demographic trap.
In contrast, unilateral separation will undermine the Palestinian rejectionist position by visibly demonstrating that the goal of reversing the 1947 UN Partition Resolution legitimizing the creation of a Jewish state is unattainable.
To disengage politically and socially from most of the Palestinian population, it will also be necessary to remove isolated settlements on the other side of the security barrier that are difficult or costly to defend. Such marginal settlements make poor bargaining chips for permanent-status negotiations that are unlikely to ever take place. And at this stage in the conflict, unilateral disengagement and withdrawal from settlements would not become a reward for terrorism, as some officials fear.
In Arafat's 32-month terror campaign, the Palestinians have learned that Israel is not on the verge of collapse, and that the withdrawal from Lebanon actually strengthened Israel's position. The same is true for closing the isolated settlements and reducing the highways and roads that the IDF must defend against terror attacks.
At the same time, such extensive unilateral disengagement will reduce the daily friction between the populations, and allow for the removal of many of the IDF checkpoints between Palestinian villages and cities.
Politically, disengagement will not be easy for any government, and any effort to close even very small settlements with no security role will be very difficult for Ariel Sharon, despite the broad support for such policies nationally. And the Palestinians and their proponents will continue their propaganda campaign, using terms like apartheid and racism to demonize the policy of separation. This rhetoric will have to be countered by demonstrating that disengagement is the only realistic way to end the hatred and violence that has propelled the conflict for generations.
The process of unilateral disengagement is being ignored by officials, particularly from Europe, whose sense of self-importance through pilgrimages to Arafat will be further deflated. However, given that the status quo is intolerable and the road map is dead in the water, separation, warts and all, becomes the only remaining realistic option. The quicker we get on with it, the better for all.
The writer is director of the Program on Conflict Management and Negotiation at Bar-Ilan University.
Ronald Reagan was a beloved president, deservedly, but he made one huge mistake.
"That place, Mr. President, is not your place," warned Elie Wiesel.
But Reagan would not listen. On May 5, 1985, to appease West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Reagan visited Bitburg's Kolmeshohe Cemetery, where some 2,000 German servicemen were buried - among them, 49 members of Hitler's Waffen SS. The President of the United States spent eight haunting minutes there in Bitburg, and laid a wreath on that place.
Those eight minutes were costly.
According to the Wisdom of Our Fathers: "Do not fraternize with the wicked, and do not abandon belief in divine retribution."
Wiesel, a spiritual man, was not idling when he voiced poetic emphasis on the word "place." We do not know the "place" where holiness resides, but we should know where evil dwells.
Reagan's tragic mistake is coming around again with a new president and a new Bitburg, now called the Road Map, the main sponsors of which are the Europeans (the movers within the Quartet) and the main purpose of which is to destroy the Land of Israel. This current president seems as motivated to appease Tony Blair as Reagan was motivated to appease Helmut Kohl. Just the other day, George W. Bush said, "America will work without tiring" for the creation of a Palestinian state.
We can only hope this is temporary blindness. Once again a European booby-trap has been set to ensnare an American president. The Road Map is to Bush what Bitburg was to Reagan. Reagan had to choose, and he chose, and now Bush must choose. The blood of Six Million cry out again for an understanding heart.
A vibrant Israel waits. Will Bush extend his arm to that company of scorners, or will he seek the Bible that he professes to embrace? As a man of faith, he knows what is above him ÈÎ "an eye sees, an ear hears, and all our deeds are recorded in a Book." Whichever way he chooses, it will be remembered, it will be recorded.
Only George W. Bush, President of the United States of America, has the power to hold off the European and Arab stampede to wipe Israel off the map. Only Bush can say ¡§yes¡¨ to Israel, ¡§no¡¨ to Powell, Blair, Kofi and Abu. To Bush we can only say, echoing Wiesel, "This Road Map, Mr. President, is not your Road Map." Sharon's spokesman Ranaan Gissin said: "Don't mess with us." A Higher Voice said it differently: "Do not touch My anointed ones."
This can only be a warning. Let the Europeans trifle with it, and learn divine retribution, but not our president, whose mighty prestige should not be up for sale in the marketplace of treachery. There's still time to turn this around, away, far from "the gathering of evil-doers."
To date, this president has been a success, and the prayers of Christians and Jews are with him. We may even guess that the prayers of God are with him, for we have it from tradition that God Himself dons holy garments and "prays." Surely, then, He prays that our president will serve as His surrogate and "break the yoke of the nations from our neck, and speedily lead us upright to our land."
As Harry S. Truman, of loving memory, held Israel in the palm of his hand, so does Bush. This is his chance to prosper or wither.
There are questions for Bush to answer. But let him not answer for the sake of America, nor even for the sake of Israel. A Higher Power sits in judgment, even above the Oval Office.
Jack Engelhard is the author of the international bestseller Indecent Proposal and is a former radio and newspaper editor covering the Mideast, as well as a former American volunteer in the Israeli Defense Forces. His columns can be read online at http://www.comteqcom.com/jackcolumn.php and he can be reached at JackEngelhard@ComteQcom.com.
“They [the Israeli government] have some comments on the road map and we will listen to their comments but we do not plan to rewrite or renegotiate the road map. We believe the best way to [work out differences] is through the road map.”—U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell during his visit to Israel, insisting that the road map was the “only path” to peace. (Reuters, May 13)
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