Why we support Israel.
The terrorist attacks against us on September 11, 2001 taught us a great many lessons. One of the lessons we learned — or relearned — was that democracy is not just disliked by Islamists, it is hated. And one way to give in to terrorism, rather than fight it, is to concur with the basis for that hatred and weaken democratic institutions, and democracies.
We in the United States did no such thing. Rather, we decided to brook no tolerance for terrorism, and we sought to root it out by going after cells in our own country and elsewhere and by changing the terrorist-sponsoring regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. We may yet have to change other regimes, we may not. But one thing we will not do is consent to weakening our resolve, our defenses, or our national commitment to the democratic way of life.
We also learned who our true allies were on September 11 and its aftermath. They are the countries that expressed their sympathy with us and help us in our war against terrorism. We will never forget the strength and resolve evidenced by the leadership of some of our European allies, allies whose own countries' very existence is not threatened. But one ally does live under the cloud of daily extinction and has lived so since its very creation: Israel. Israel, ironically, is also one of the world's greatest exemplars of democracies.
In the wake of September 11, many argued that we brought the attack upon ourselves because of our support for Israel. Even were this true, we should no more end that support than we should eliminate religious freedom and women's rights in our country — hallmarks of our democracy that also engage the wrath of the terrorists who attacked us. And it beggars belief to think our support for Israel played much of any part for the attack upon us.
First of all, complaints about Israel ranked low with Osama bin Laden until he realized that ratcheting up those complaints to the top of his list would earn him more support within the Arab world. Second, if Israel is responsible for Islamist or Arabist wrath, I cannot imagine just what Israel did to encourage Syria to swallow Lebanon, to encourage Saddam Hussein to unleash a bloodbath against Iran, to encourage Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait, to encourage Kuwait to expel hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, to encourage the Taliban to destroy the Bamiyan Buddha statues in Afghanistan, to encourage the slaughter of Christians in the Sudan, to encourage the bombings in Bali that killed 202 people, or to encourage church bombings in Pakistan.
An honest look at Islamist or Arab wrath (or both), requires an honest conclusion: Israel's existence, or our support for it, simply cannot be responsible for the terrorism and violence we have born witness to over the past several decades — or, for that matter, the terrorism we suffered on September 11. What these terrorists and thugs hate above all is liberal democracy, religious freedom, and any alternative claim to God or land that they, themselves, claim. This list includes America, Israel, Christianity, moderate Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Judaism. It is a long list, a list which makes our task all the more difficult but also a task that makes our resolve all the more important.
When it comes to "Peace in the Middle East," most people think immediately of Israel and Israel's requirement to make peace with its Arab neighbors — even as its Arab neighbors seem to have a very hard time of making peace with themselves. Nonetheless, Israel does stand out; and it stands out for three reasons: 1) It is the only country in the region that has a majority of Jews; 2) It is the only country in the region that gives people of all faiths and nationalities full religious, civic, and political freedom; and 3) With two exceptions, it is not recognized by any other Arab states.
Thus we come to how we can help broker a peace deal between Israel and her neighbors as well as Israel and the Palestinians.
These requirements would go a long way toward clarifying much confusion about what a new state in the Middle East will be, and look like. Israel, after all, will be making an ultimate sacrifice: land. Palestinians should, thus, be willing to make these much less painful adjustments. If they cannot, statehood and the conveyance of land from a democracy to a who-knows-exactly-what should not take place.
Finally, the United States has a moral and legal obligation to maintain its embassy and ambassador in Jerusalem. That sentence comes from the 2000 Republican-party platform. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths. That sentence comes from the 2000 Democratic-party Platform. Just so, in the 2000 election, both major parties in America articulated their commitment to the only democracy in the Middle East — a commitment that had, by then, become a commonplace understanding. Indeed, most Americans today would be surprised to learn that, in fact, the U.S. embassy in Israel is not in Jerusalem. If we, as a nation, want to maintain our moral clarity in supporting democracy, we should be very clear that we will not tolerate any other capital for Israel, and we shall not maintain any other location for our embassy. If the United States would comply with what both major parties in this democracy have agreed to, that would send the most morally clear message we could: Israel is our ally, Jerusalem is its capital, and we will not cave in to the demands of terrorists.
— William J. Bennett is the chairman of Americans for Victory Over Terrorism and the author of, among other books, Why We Fight: Moral Clarity and the War on Terrorism.
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Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas emerged from his fourth meeting with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon complaining that Israel was holding up the process by refusing to bend on the Palestinian demand for the release of 7,700 Palestinian prisoners. The Israelis, eager for peace, combed their jails for Arab political prisoners it could release, with its only proviso being that it would not release Arab prisoners who had Israeli blood on their hands. They were able to come up with 400 or so who qualified.
Prime Minister Sharon said that Israel would not risk releasing potential attackers unless the Palestinians met the first condition of the roadmap for peace – the dismantling of the terror groups who are sworn to Israel's destruction.
In any other universe but this one, asking your enemies to stop attacking before you lay down your arms is reasonable. In any other universe but this one, one doesn't return captured combatants to the battlefield to resume the offensive against your own troops.
But in this universe, (or at least, in the one where Israel is attempting to make peace) that is called "unbending."
Since promising on June 24 to immediately begin dismantling the terrorist infrastructure as a first condition for peace, the Palestinians haven't arrested one terrorist. All the terrorist organizations in the Palestinian areas have unrestricted freedom of action. Prime Minister Abbas is still holding meetings with the head of Hamas, one of the premiere threats to Israel's continued existence and one of the terrorist groups Abbas specifically promised to dismantle.
The "roadmap" calls for Palestinians to immediately cease all violence. In Mahmoud Abbas' first 12 weeks in office, there have been 338 terrorist attacks or attempted attacks. There have been more than 318 wounded and 51 killed. Statistically speaking, since the beginning of the so-called roadmap to peace, it is safer to be a GI in Iraq than a Jew in Israel. With a "peace" like this, who needs a war?
Following the summit in Egypt, Mahmoud Abbas specifically refused to implement any of these elements of the roadmap, claiming that if he did so, he would start a civil war. Abbas, after meeting Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa in Cairo on Tuesday, said, "Cracking down on Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian organizations is not an option at all."
If the first condition for peace (as promised by the Palestinian side) is "not an option at all," then can someone please explain when the terms of a signed agreement between Israel and the Palestinians became "optional"? And if the terms are optional, does that extend to both sides?
Can Israel simply decide not to withdraw troops, not to dismantle settlements and not to unfreeze Palestinian tax-sharing revenues on the grounds it is causing riots and demonstrations in Israel on the grounds it might cause a civil war among the Jews?
I think not.
This "peace process" (or maybe "pretext" is a better word) is doomed to follow all the rest. In any universe, a one-sided peace agreement is called a victory for the other side.
In the Middle East, it is the only offer Israel ever gets. And you can only count on future offers promising more and doing even less.
The simple fact is this: There is nothing that Israel can offer that will be acceptable to the Palestinian side apart from offering them Israel itself. Arafat remains in charge, despite the fiction that Abbas is now calling the shots. And Arafat doesn't want a state side by side with Israel – he wants a state instead of Israel. Evidently, so does Abbas. He proves it with every public statement.
Israel is in a no-win situation. Her back is to the sea – she is surrounded on all three sides by enemies and is being forced into a false peace by her friends. That is precisely the scenario depicted by the Hebrew prophets for the revived Jewish state in the Last Days. And all of this indicates that's exactly where we are in God's prophetic timetable.
My greatest concern now is that United States policy is helping to implement this catastrophic situation. According to the Hebrew prophets, who have never been wrong, that is very dangerous for the United States. It puts America in direct opposition to what God clearly vows He is going to do – restore the scattered tribes of Israel to the land He unconditionally promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants.
Some say that makes me a Christian Zionist. And to that I say: "No"! It just makes me one who believes the infallible Word of God.
On August 6, 2002, Donald Rumsfeld had the temerity to call the West Bank and Gaza Strip "the so-called occupied territories." He couldn't have been more correct. The "occupied territories," after all, is shorthand for the idea that Israel has no rights — either legal or practical — to any of this inflamed real estate.
Like the facile phrase "land for peace," it is meant to short-circuit a dense history and convince the world that the turmoil in the Middle East stems from Israel's unwillingness to return the land it won from Egypt, Syria, and Jordan in the Six Day War, a war imposed on it by Cairo and Damascus with the connivance of Moscow. (Israel also won the Golan Heights in that war, but the demand for its return to Syria has quieted — at least temporarily — because, after September 11, 2001, it is hard to justify giving strategically crucial territory to a terrorist-supporting regime.) If only Israel devolved to the Palestinians what it won in June 1967 (the West Bank between the 1949 armistice lines and the Jordan river, plus the Gaza Strip), peace and justice would be restored to the Middle East.
But there was no peace in the Middle East before 1967. Indeed, there was great turmoil — directed at Israel. And there was no justice for the Arabs of Palestine. The 1947 U.N. partition plan had envisioned, along with the Jewish one, an Arab state: The word Palestine was hardly uttered. But, in the two decades before the 1967 war, Jordan (which had annexed the West Bank) and Egypt (which had run Gaza as a virtual penitentiary, no one in and no one out) instead ruled the territories for themselves.
Palestinian nationalists during this time, according to the noted Binghamton University scholar Don Peretz (no relation of mine, familial or political), were "instruments of national policy of various Arab governments, ... of inter-Arab policy maneuvers." With the defeat of their Arab caretakers by Israel, however, young Palestinian commandos coalesced around an audacious goal: "to obliterate completely the Jewish state." Where did this élan come from? Peretz explains: "In the unrwa schools, where refugee children were educated by Palestinian teachers, a new generation of ardent Palestinian patriots was raised. The most zealous proponent of militant activism against the 'intruder state' of Israel was this new generation of U.N.-educated youth."
Israelis grasped the Palestinian goal of politicide toward the Jewish state, and their consciousness was reinforced by the second intifada, launched in September 2000 amidst unprecedented concessions from Jerusalem. Given that the end of the Jewish state remains the Palestinians' overriding desire, no Israeli government can trust in the irreversibility of Arab obligations taken at the negotiating table.
Nonetheless, on certain matters, in the current talks brokered by the United States, this Israeli government has already taken that risk. It has released convicted terrorists from jail, some (if not most) ready again to plot and commit murder. Israel has also taken largely on faith the Palestinian Authority's (P.A.) commitment to put an end to the violence against Israelis perpetrated by both jihadist gangs, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and the P.A.'s own affiliated militias.
The P.A., after all, has publicly refused to even try to confiscate the weaponry of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Instead, the road map gives them a three-month truce during which to rebuild the strength sapped by Israeli counterterrorism measures during the last year. Will those released terrorists be stopped from killing Israelis again? If the cease-fire Mahmoud Abbas has promised to sustain turns out to be just another calm before another storm, the road map will lead to nowhere.
But, while prisoners can be rearrested and cease-fires ended, the territorial concessions Israel makes in a final agreement would have the aura and substance of permanence. Which is why Rumsfeld's phrase alarmed some and consoled others. The implications of Rumsfeld's construction could not have been more correct: From the perspective of international law, all the equities regarding the West Bank and Gaza accrue to Israel. Here the crux is the Mandate for Palestine confirmed by the League of Nations in 1922. To be sure, this document severed that part of Palestine on the eastern side of the Jordan from the land reserved for the Jewish people by the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and set in process Hashemite rule there.
But, otherwise, the British were charged with facilitating the establishment of the Jewish national home. The mandate specifically provided for Jewish immigration and, perhaps most important to the current debate, guaranteed the right to "close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands." (By what right did the League so decide the destiny of this particular territory? The truth is that this is how the remains of all of the defeated Ottoman Empire, Turkey itself aside, were distributed.) One might say the U.N.'s 1947 partition plan for Palestine superseded the mandate. But the Arabs all rejected that plan. And no government other than Pakistan's and Great Britain's recognized Jordanian sovereignty in the West Bank. More to the point, Israel never ceded any of the rights granted to its legal predecessor, the Jewish Agency for Palestine, by the League, and such a relinquishing was not made a precondition of Israel's admission to the United Nations in 1949.
This is not a convoluted justification for Israeli settlements, some of which are highly provocative to the surrounding Palestinians and preclude the contiguity of a future Palestinian state. I was against these settlements when they were built (some by Labor governments), and I assume that, as part of a real peace agreement, many — perhaps most — of them will be disbanded. How should such decisions be made? Since it is assumed by nearly everybody that scrupulous attention will be paid to the religious sensibilities of the Arabs in the making of any final boundaries, like-minded care should also be paid to the comparable sensibilities of the Jews: Jews should have access to sites holy to them in the historic lands of Judea and Samaria. Another consideration will be the size of the different Jewish communities. As a general rule, fortunately, the larger they are, the closer they are to the 1949 lines. But not all; one community — Ariel — would have remained with Israel even under the Clinton rules.
The basic principle in such decisions will be Israel's security. Israel's precarious lines of defense need to be much stronger than they were before 1967, and the wall now being built to divide Israelis and Palestinians is part of that strategy. (The wall, by the way, was a wise contrivance not of Israel's hawks but of its doves.) The wall deviates from the pre-'67 borders, as it should. Those who object to these deviations see them as precedents for a future permanent border, which they are not. But what the critics do not grasp is that, in a serious negotiation, Israel's aims will actually be greater than the wall's reach. Israel will also be eager to transfer some of its territory within the green line — especially Arab neighborhoods around Jerusalem and Arab towns elsewhere in the country — to nascent Palestine. Then we will see how Palestinian these Arab citizens of Israel really feel.
One demand Israel will almost certainly make is for control over its border with Jordan. Not because King Abdullah (or his father, for that matter) seeks Israel's destruction. To the contrary, Israel rescued the Hashemites in 1970 by turning back columns of Syrian tanks that had invaded Jordan while the monarchy put down a Palestinian revolt instigated by Yasir Arafat. Rather, Jordan is a danger to Israel because of its weakness. The Jordanians were appalled when Ehud Barak seemed open, at Camp David and at Taba, to loosening Israel's hold on the then-emerging Palestinian state's border with the kingdom. The monarchy has good reason to fear the Palestinians west of the river and at home.
Yes, recent elections in Jordan must have offered the king some comfort: Polling mechanisms that disenfranchised Jordan's Palestinians kept the opposition ultras from gaining too many seats. But the Muslim extremists and the outright jihadists in Jordan, as everywhere else in that part of the world, are growing in number and in ferocity. And the Palestinians, mostly descendants of émigrés from the other side of the river, constitute 60 percent of Jordan's population, maybe more. They resent the king for his fidelity to his father's peace with Israel. These two sources of opposition are volatile. If they rise, no one can guarantee the outcome.
JWR contributor Martin Peretz is editor-in-chief and chairman of The New Republic. © 2003, Martin Peretz
I had an e-mail the other day from some fine fellow who was all upset. “According to you, there will never be peace between Israelis and the Palestinians” he fumed.
Not so, dear sir. In fact, if you lived here in Jerusalem as I do, surrounded by Muslim Arabs –you’d know that in many places, we already have peace.
All you’d have to do is go to that great center of Jerusalem day and night-life The Mall, a large three-tiered structure housing restaurants (all kosher) movie theaters, and hundreds of stores of all kinds (I don’t have to tell you, right? It’s a mall.) What’s different here, is that you will find sitting around the fountains outside Pizza Hut Arab families with children in baby carriages, munching pizza beside Jewish families from neighborhoods in Judea and Samaria. Look at them, enjoying the air conditioning, and happily feeding their little ones from paper cups filled with ice cream on a summer evening.
All this without a Road Map. Without the release of terrorists. Without a Palestinian State. Without the permission of Yasir Arafat. Or Sharon. Or George Bush.
Now, what lessons can we learn about how to actually achieve MidEast Peace from the Jerusalem Mall? I’ll tell you.
You can only enter the mall if you have no weapons. The reason Jew and Arab can sit peacefully side by side enjoying life and each other’s company, is that anyone who wants to get into the mall is carefully checked for weapons before he ’s allowed to enter. That’s right. All cars are checked, included the boot and back seat. People get their bags checked. They are wanded.
Get rid of the terrorists.
And then you might not have peace, but you will have Arab and Jew sitting side by side with their families on a cool summer evening, making an attempt to quietly live their lives and solve their differences.
A joke, making the Internet rounds (I edit a little):
Three Americans and an Israeli soldier are caught by cannibals and are about to be cooked. The chief says, "I am familiar with your Western custom of granting a last wish. Before we kill and eat you, do you have any last requests?"
Dan Rather says, "Well, I'm a Texan, so I'd like one last bowlful of hot, spicy chili." The chief nods to an underling, who leaves and returns with the chili. Rather eats it all and says, "Now I can die content."
Al Sharpton says, "I'd like to have my picture taken, as nothing has given me greater joy in life." Done.
Judith Woodruff says, "I'm a journalist to the end. I want to take out my tape recorder and describe the scene here, and what's about to happen. Maybe someday someone will hear it and know that I was on the job to the last." The chief directs an aide to hand over the tape recorder, and Woodruff dictates some comments. "There," she says. "I can now die fulfilled."
The chief says, "And you, Mr. Israeli Soldier? What is your final wish?"
The solider says, "Kick me in the behind."
"What?" says the chief. "Will you mock us in your last hour?"
"No, I'm not kidding. I want you to kick me in the behind."
So the chief unties the soldier, shoves him into the open, and kicks him in the behind. The Israeli goes sprawling, but rolls to his knees, pulls a 9mm pistol from his waistband, and shoots the chief dead. In the resulting confusion, he leaps to his knapsack, pulls out his Uzi, and sprays the cannibals with gunfire. In a flash, the cannibals are all dead or fleeing for their lives.
As the Israeli unties the others, they ask him, "Why didn't you just shoot them? Why did you ask the chief to kick you in the behind?"
"What?" answers the soldier. "And have you %#$@s call me the aggressor?"
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