In a week chock full of diplomatic activity regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the calendars of Israeli diplomats have been awkwardly empty.
While every Israeli government has maintained its absolute opposition to the internationalization of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, what we have seen this week is that, in practice, this internationalization is occurring. How else is one to assess the fact that, in the shadow of the latest massacre of Israeli civilians, world leaders have met and made plans regarding the future of Israel and the Palestinians without bothering to invite a representative of the Jewish state to participate in discussions?
Starting with a meeting of the so-called "Quartet," (UN, EU, Russia, and US) in New York on Tuesday, and culminating with US President George W. Bush's meeting yesterday with the Egyptian, Saudi, and Jordanian foreign ministers, Israelis watched with bewilderment as these international leaders clucked out pro forma condemnations of the wanton murder of our women and children and then proceeded to tell us what we need to do to make the Palestinians' lives better.
In their joint statement, the enlightened world leaders placed Israel in the same category as the Palestinians. The Palestinians, we were told, have to reform their government, but Israel has to help them do this by transferring frozen tax revenues to Arafat's PA and easing closure restrictions. We are all to accept and even applaud the fact that the goal of all of this is to establish a Palestinian state.
The significance of the fact that this statement, coming just hours after the Emmanuel massacre, included the UN's imprimatur, cannot be underestimated. Israel's governments have for over a generation understood that the UN is not a credible player in the Middle East.
Because of this, every Israeli government has maintained constant vigilance in insisting that this body, which sponsored the anti-Semitic hate fest at Durban, South Africa, last summer and hid pertinent information from our government about the Hizbullah kidnapping of our soldiers in October 2000, not be granted a seat at any table where our future is discussed.
The same has been the case for the EU, which to this day is the primary source of financing for the PA. As for Russia, Foreign Minister Ivanov's presence at the meeting naturally raised the question of what the facilitator of Iran's ballistic missile and nuclear programs has to contribute to the enhancement of Israeli security. And yet there was Colin Powell standing shoulder to shoulder with Kofi Annan, three representatives of the EU, and Ivanov, at UN headquarters laying out a plan that Israel is expected to follow.
Then came Bush's meeting with the Egyptian, Jordanian, and Saudi foreign ministers yesterday. Ahead of their meeting with Bush, these representatives of robust Middle Eastern democracies leaked their "Palestinian reform program" to The Washington Post.
According to the plan, Arafat's government is to remain in charge until elections, and elections can only be held after Israel withdraws from all territory it handed over to Arafat in the framework of the now defunct Oslo Accords.
One cannot help but scratch one's head while staring at all these wise men assembled in the United States and wonder, where is the Israeli government in all of this? How is it possible that in meetings relating directly to the security and well-being, not to mention future borders of our state, Israel is not even granted observer status? Has the international quest for evenhandedness been so successful that Israel's government now accepts the position that our representatives can only participate in discussions relating directly to our lives if a representative of the Palestinian terrorist authority is also seated at the table?
In the midst of all Israel-related summitry, Powell announced that the CIA has put together a plan to protect Israel from terrorism, which he claims is "very good." Oddly, this plan does not involve extradition of Palestinian murderers of US nationals to the US to stand trial. It does not involve placing Arafat's PA on the State Department's list of terror organizations. It does not involve stopping Saudi payments to families of Palestinians suicide bombers or Egyptian action to prevent the smuggling of weaponry to the Gaza Strip. No, the CIA's "very good" plan for protecting Israel from Palestinian terrorism involves rebuilding Palestinian security forces that are involved in terrorism.
If all of this were not enough to elicit formal protests from our government, one need only peruse State Department spokesman Richard Boucher's press briefing from Wednesday to understand just how far the internationalization of the conflict has proceeded. In response to a question on the practical implications of the "Quartet's" meeting, Boucher explained that the parties have set up "seven working groups to look into various things." On the ground, Boucher explained, "you have immediate work being done on security, on economic reform, civil reform, and you have the political aspects also being looked at as we can try to move forward on those."
Boucher went on to say that the arbiter of whether Palestinian reforms have been sufficient will, in the first instance, be the "international community" that "will be in a position to know what's going on." After the "international community" gives its good housekeeping seal of approval, the Palestinians themselves will "judge whether the system and the government that they have are meeting their needs."
The fact that Israel might have something to say about the nature of Palestinian reforms seems not to have occurred to Boucher.
Then, too, in remarking on the role of the Egyptian, Jordanian, and Saudi governments in the internationalized process, Boucher did not make mention of any US demand for them to stop their Goebbels-inspired anti-Semitic incitement against Israel as a possible outcome of their meeting with the US president. Instead, Boucher maintained that discussions with these countries will revolve around "steps that Israel can take, either on the humanitarian side… or on moving towards a political dialogue."
For much of the past two years of Palestinian jihad against Israel it has been plain that the only way for a truly reformed Palestinian leadership to emerge is for Israel to first obliterate the PA security forces together with their fellow travelers in Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Since the inception of the Oslo process, Arafat has, with Israeli and international blessings, spawned a malignant Palestinian nationalism that has taken hold throughout Palestinian society. As Dr. Yitzhak Klein from the Ariel Center for Policy Research pointed out back in March 2001, this Palestinian nationalism sees as its aim not the establishment of a Palestinian state in the framework of an accord with Israel, but rather the liberation of Palestine at the expense of Israel. Now combine this with the fact that a solid majority within Palestinian society support the continuation of the mass murder of Israeli civilians.
If Bush's vision for a peaceful Middle East is ever to be realized, it is imperative that the Palestinian public understand that the only way for them to move forward is to accept Israel's right to exist, wholly reject the PLO's liberation strategies, and forcibly eject all members of their society who refuse to toe the line.
Yet rather than move forward with the only plan that stands a chance of bringing stability and security to Israel, our government is mutely accepting the internationalization of the conflict.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's spokesman, Ra'anan Gissin, argues that Sharon's strategy for win
ning this war is to move slowly in order to allow the international community to realize for itself that working with the Palestinian Authority is futile.
Gissin points out that, with her remarks on Channel 2 last Friday calling for a transformation of the structure of the Palestinian Authority rather than simply replacing Arafat, US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice showed that the Bush administration has gotten the point. "We cannot solve the problem with a sledgehammer," Gissin noted, "it has to be a gradual process."
All of this is well and good except for the fact that, as even Gissin noted, "the waiting around is literally killing us."
While winning the war may in fact be "a gradual process," given our rising death toll, there can be no doubt that more must be done to implement it faster. Everyday the PA exists, Jewish lives are in danger. Every time that Chris Patten or Kofi Annan refer to Arafat as the legitimate leader of the Palestinian people, license is given to continue spilling Jewish blood. Without a doubt, mutely standing by as the "international community" devises plans for our future strengthens Arafat's hand. To hope that at some future date Annan and our European, Egyptian, and Saudi friends will let us do what needs to be done while prolonging this unacceptable situation situation defies not just reason, but decency.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post