It was good that President George W. Bush visited the Auschwitz crematory during his European trip. The Holocaust museums in Washington and Jerusalem remind visitors of what happened 60 years ago, but not until people set foot in places where history's greatest atrocity occurred can they fully know. The president said that good came to Europe because "there were people willing to take up arms against evil." In a guest book, the president wrote, "never forget."
Evil ceased being a concept, except when politically convenient, sometime in the '60s. Some of the same theologians, politicians, educators and pundits who dismissed evil as a proper metaphor for our "modern time" were quick to invoke the word when it came to policies (mostly Republican) they disliked. Words such as "racism" and "homophobe" have replaced evil in our contemporary lexicon. Those same people who reject evil (as well as its companion and even more "outmoded" word, "sin") ask us to accept that certain things they do not like are wrong, while rejecting a standard - other than opinion polls - by which right and wrong can be measured.
It is puzzling, therefore, that President Bush - fresh from his visit to Auschwitz - now asks Israel to trust its future to the ideological descendants of the architect of the death camps.
One might expect that a people so close to getting what they want would modify their rhetoric and mollify their deeds to show the world how they plan to conduct themselves in a Palestinian state. One might also expect Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to think more clearly about the "final solution" that Hitler failed to achieve but that his Arab disciples see as their mandate. In both cases, one would be wrong to think this way.
On the eve of Mr. Bush's visit to the Middle East, Egyptian government newspapers unloaded invective on the president. Some samples: "Bush is like Saddam, a murderer, tyrant and oppressor" (Muhammad Nafi', writing in Al-Gumhuriya); "Bush suffers from Oedipus Complex" (Anis Mansour in Al-Ahram, the main government daily); "The removal of sanctions against Iraq require the Iraqi people to fight the Americans" (Al-Ahram editorial). This is from a nation that has a peace treaty with Israel and is an "ally" of the United States.
The Palestinian Authority is not letting up on its high-octane diatribes. The PA Education Ministry has announced the top 10 winners among 1 million entries in a children's writing contest. One searches in vain for sentiments expressed by the winners concerning peace, brotherhood and cooperation with Israel. They are all about war, hate and taking all of the land to the sea. The essays reflect what the next generation of Palestinian children is being taught. It is not a preparatory course for coexistence.
Last Sunday (June 1), Israel Television Channel Two showed a tape of Yasser Arafat speaking to a group of children in Ramallah to mark International Children's Day. Arafat's remarks were about "shahid" (die for the cause). He said one shahid who dies for the sake of Jerusalem has power equal to 40 of the enemy dying. Arafat said nothing about peace and reconciliation. Don't expect Arafat's sham prime minister, Abu Mazen, to denounce Arafat's remarks.
The Bush administration and Sharon's government persist with the fiction that further concessions by Israel will satisfy her enemies and that Palestinian promises can be trusted. So, Sharon announces the imminent release of 100 terrorists, including Ahmed Jabara, who was sentenced to life for the 1975 murder of 14 Israelis in a terror attack in Jerusalem. This is styled as a "confidence-building" measure, along with the decision by Sharon to withdraw soldiers from areas where they had been placed to thwart the movement of homicide bombers. The confidence built by these actions will be that of Israel's enemies, who will rightly see them as another sign of weakness by Israel and America and confirm that terrorism works.
President Bush correctly said at Auschwitz that evil must be opposed, even to point of taking up arms against it. If that is true, why does American policy support the forcible dismantling of Saddam Hussein's evil regime, but pressure the democratically elected government of Israel to take steps that are suicidal in the face of evil?
Such a move guarantees the rekindling of the fires of Auschwitz
It was a splendid photo opportunity yesterday at Aqaba - Prime Minister Sharon and the newly appointed Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, shaking hands at President Bush's urging, the Red Sea sparkling in the background. Splendid too, of course, was the handshake on the White House lawn in 1993 between Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat. And what ensued after that was an onslaught of deadly terrorist attacks on Israelis and the creation of a corrupt Arafat-led dictatorship in the West Bank and Gaza. Skeptics are entitled to ask what's different this time around.
The early signs aren't particularly encouraging. Mr. Abbas's words yesterday were strong. "We repeat our renunciation, a renunciation of terror against the Israelis wherever they might be. Such methods are inconsistent with our religious and moral traditions and are dangerous obstacles to the achievement of an independent, sovereign state we seek. These methods also conflict with the kinds of state we wish to build, based on human rights and the rule of law," he said. "We will exert all of our efforts, using all our resources to end the militarization of the intifada, and we will succeed. The armed intifada must end."
Yet just hours after those words had been spoken, armed attacks on Israelis were launched. The Jerusalem Post's Margo Dudkevitch reported last night: "Shots were fired at soldiers near Nizlat Zeid west of Jenin in the West Bank Wednesday night. No one was wounded in the attack. In the Gaza Strip a mortar shell was fired at an Israeli community in the southern Gaza Strip, no one was wounded and no damage reported. Several grenades were thrown at soldiers near Rafah, the soldiers returned fire."
No one is expecting an immediate end to all violence by the Palestinian Arabs. But people are expecting immediate territorial concessions by Israel. Therein lies one of the fundamental imbalances in the "land for peace" formula that is the conventional approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The land gets turned over, while the peace is merely promised.
There are other troubling signs, as well. "Israel has got responsibilities. Israel must deal with the settlements," Mr. Bush was caught on television telling the Saudi and Egyptian leaders at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. This is a fundamental misconception - that the presence of Jews in the historically Jewish lands of Judea and Samaria somehow is a threat to peace. Or that it is the "settlements," rather than the very existence of a Jewish state, to which the Arab tyrants are opposed.
Mr. Bush also made the error yesterday of insulting Israel with the following comment. "Both prime ministers here agree that progress toward peace also requires an end to violence and the elimination of all forms of hatred and prejudice and official incitement - in school books, in broadcasts, and in the words used by political leaders. Both leaders understand that a future of peace cannot be founded on hatred and falsehood and bitterness." This echoes the text of the "road map," but it violates Israel's first reservation to the road map: "The road map will not state that Israel must cease violence and incitement against the Palestinians." It 's not that Israel wants to commit violence and incitement against Palestinians - it's that it's offensive to lump Israeli self-defense or legitimate education efforts with Arab terrorism and hatred. There's no moral equivalence. It's as if Mr. Bush and Osama bin Laden were brought together by Kofi Annan, who said, "Both leaders understand that progress toward peace requires an end to violence and the elimination of all forms of hatred and prejudice and official incitement." The parallelism is just inappropriate, a false accusation.
Here, too, actions speak louder than words. The Palestinian Arab incitement is against America as well as against Israel. In Tuesday's issue of the Palestinian Authority newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Mr. Abbas's deputy foreign minister, Adli Sadeq, described Mr. Bush as the "head of the snake of the despicable invasion snake in Iraq," according to the Middle East Media Research Institute. In April, after Mr. Abbas's appointment as prime minister, the Palestinian Authority's television station broadcast a sermon that said, according to Memri, "Allah, grant victory to the Iraqi army.Allah, defeat America and its allies.Allah, purify the Islamic soil from the American and British treason and defilement."
Where Mr. Bush does deserve credit was for his statement yesterday that "America is strongly committed, and I am strongly committed, to Israel's security as a vibrant Jewish state." That formulation of Israel as a "Jewish state" was something that Mr. Abbas could not bring himself to utter yesterday, even though Mr. Sharon publicly expressed support for a "Palestinian state." This is the subject of Israel's sixth reservation to the road map: "In connection to both the introductory statements and the final settlement, declared references must be made to Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state and to the waiver of any right of return for Jewish refugees to the state of Israel."
Israel's democratically elected government accepted the road map based only on the American government's promise of May 23 that it would "fully and seriously" address Israel's 14 reservations to the road map. Reservation two is that "the first condition for progress will be the complete cessation of terror, violence, and incitement." As this process goes forward, Israelis, at least, will be judging it by counting hand grenades, not handshakes.
Even someone who hangs his hopes on the road map and the outcome of the Aqaba summit must admit that American President George W. Bush has given us an original and unique set of laws on the eve of our Festival of the Giving of the Torah - our book of laws. All the terrorists in the world can now look and learn how he who has sworn to fight terror is handing Palestinian terror its greatest achievement - a Palestinian state, the prize and reward for murdering many hundreds of Jews.
Furthermore, while Israel is finally attacking and the terrorists are busy mainly fleeing for their lives, the leader of the superpower that declared a merciless war against terror comes along and creates a political and psychological situation that will force Israel to stop its offensive before it is completed and will allow those murderers to reorganize anew.
"We must fight terror until it is destroyed," said Bush a short time ago. "We must not allow even the slightest of achievements." It turns out that there is his kind of terror - terror against the United States, which indeed must not be granted any achievements, and another kind of terror - terror against Jews, to which the Bush doctrine does not apply.
The American president wants a Palestinian state free of terror. But why should the Palestinians want this too? After all, they are forever grateful to the terrorists for their murderousness, which gained them a state. They will conclude that terror must be nurtured, certainly not suppressed, in order to accelerate the process of the establishment of a Palestinian state and a whip against Israel in preparation for further rounds of aggression.
Were it not for the distress of the Israeli leadership, and perhaps of the general public, the Americans would not have succeeded, perhaps would not even have tried, to impose the road map. After all, more than once Israel has repulsed American pressures, and quite successfully at that. But instead of the current Likud government learning from the late Menachem Begin, who rejected the Reagan plan in his time, this government is instead drawing inspiration from the early Oslo days.
Many of the things that are being said now about the "political process" are reminiscent of what was said and written by the architects and journalists of Oslo. It seems that nothing has been learned, including the "gestures." Even after what we have undergone in the past 31 months, the first gesture is the release of convicted prisoners with blood on their hands. As if nothing had happened, the same deception and the same delusion.
There is one significant difference: Oslo, at least initially, came after a period of calm. It was permissible to believe - despite the warnings of Ariel Sharon and a handful of incorrigible pessimists - that the Messiah was approaching. But to return, after close to 1,000 murder victims, to the same pattern of behavior, is pathological.
In any event, the speeches in Sharm and Aqaba will not result in peace. And not only because the warnings about attacks did not slacken and the incitement against Israel and the Jewish people continues, both in the Palestinian Authority and in the Arab countries. There will be no peace because even if Bush succeeds in forcing an agreement, the territory cannot support the two nations. The more residents there are - and the natural increase on the Arab side is greater than anywhere else in the world - the struggle between the Jews and Arabs over the same land will intensify, and not just the ideological dispute as to whom the land belongs. Even Bush's other vision, that there be no more periodic intifadas, will shatter on the rocks of the impossible reality.
Lasting peace, according to the terminology of the road map, will come only when the bull is grabbed by the horns; if a solution can be found to the main, although not the only, cause for the conflict between the Arabs and the Jews: the amount of land under the feet of both nations. The solution of two states for two nations on 26,000 square kilometers (10,400 square miles) - with just 5,500 square kilometers (2,200 square miles) for the Palestinians, if we withdraw to the June 4, 1967 lines - is ridiculous.
Only a generous land grant that would provide for the demographic increase of the Palestinians over time could, perhaps, alleviate the driving force behind a constant war. Such a grant could come only from the Arab states that participated in the Sharm meeting and which are rich in this resource: Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Without such a grant, no political arrangement will last.
President Bush held two Middle East summits this week. The first, with the Arab states, was an abject failure. The second, with the prime ministers of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, was merely a troubling echo of another abject failure, the Oslo handshake of 1993.
Let's be plain about what happened at Sharm el-Sheik. The president of the United States put his prestige on the line for the sake of Arab-Israeli peace and the Arab states gave him nothing. They refused to endorse Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. They spoke of their opposition to ``terrorism,'' even as they repeatedly present their own publics with the most elaborate intellectual and religious justifications of why the killing of Jews in ``Palestine'' is ``resistance'' and not terrorism.
They did not take a single concrete action, not even a gesture, toward Israel. Egypt did not offer to return its ambassador to Israel. The Saudis threatened a boycott if Israel was even invited. And most important, the Arab states refused what Bush most desperately wanted: explicit endorsement of the American view that Yasser Arafat's time had come and passed.
That would have been crucial in elevating Mahmoud Abbas, who appears to want to make peace. What did Bush do? What American presidents always do in response to such rebuffs: smile politely and say thank you.
Then on to the second summit at Aqaba. Here, Bush managed to extract enormous concessions from Israel. Ariel Sharon's speech was revolutionary. He explicitly recognized the legitimacy of a Palestinian state. He further recognized that the state would need to be ``contiguous,'' which instantly conceded to the Palestinians the overwhelming majority of the territories in the West Bank and Gaza. And even more painful for Sharon was his statement, largely overlooked, that ``no unilateral actions by any party can prejudge the outcome of our negotiations.'' ``Unilateral actions'' is Middle East-speak for settlements, which means that in drawing the final border between Israel and Palestine, Jewish settlements would be of no account.
This is a serious moving of the goalposts. What did Bush get out of Abbas? Did Abbas recognize Israel as a Jewish state? No. He refused to give up the Palestinian principle of ``return,'' which means eradicating Israel by flooding it with millions of Palestinian refugees (the overwhelming majority of whom, by the way, have never lived in Israel). Yet without recognition of Israel as a Jewish state there is nothing to prevent the disaster of Camp David 2000 when Arafat, after pocketing truly astonishing Israeli concessions, insisted at the last minute that there would be no deal unless Israel agreed to commit suicide by allowing the refugees to move to Israel, instead of to their homeland of Palestine.
What did Abbas offer? An end to terrorism. Fine. But until the lip service is carried out, this is nothing but a restatement of the famous letter from Arafat to Rabin--September 1993--in which he pledged that ``the PLO renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence.''
At Aqaba, Abbas recognized Israel. So did Arafat pretend to 10 years ago in the very first line of the Oslo agreement. Abbas pledged there will be no more incitement of hatred against Israel-- another repetition of another Oslo pledge. The Palestinians then spent the next decade poisoning their children with the worst anti-Semitic propaganda since the Third Reich.
What then happened at Aqaba? Israel bought the same rug a second time. In 1993, it bought supposed recognition, a supposed end to violence, and a supposed end to incitement by recognizing the PLO, bringing Arafat and his terrorists out of Tunis, planting them in the heart of Palestine, giving them control of all the major Palestinian cities, outfitting his army with Israeli (!) rifles, etc.
In 2003, the rug was sold again, this time fetching Israeli acceptance of a Palestinian state with contiguous borders in which Israeli settlements are uprooted. This might be the outline of the final settlement. But these were concessions given away before the negotiations even began.
The unilateral surrender of Israel continues.
Now, forcing the unilateral surrender of Israel might be a policy, if it promised peace. But the first round of unilateral concessions--from 1993 to 2000--yielded nothing but the establishment of a terror base in Palestine, a ``Trojan horse'' as Faisal Husseini called it, from which the bloodiest Palestinian violence ever has been launched.
There is only one hope that we will not repeat that doleful experiment. And that is if Bush is serious--as Clinton was not--about requiring more than just words from the Palestinians. Abbas must end the incitement, stop the violence and disarm the terrorists. Bush, having taken his friend Sharon to the cleaners, needs now to make sure that Abbas keeps his word.
"We've been down this road before. Until the Palestinians teach their children to accept Israel; until they actually go out and arrest, and even fight terrorists; and until they drop the right of return, this will remain a 'flowery path."- Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu commenting on Wednesday's Aqaba summit
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