Putting a happy, if inaccurate, face on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s visit with US President George W. Bush, a “high-ranking source” told journalists on Sharon’s plane the US agrees with Israel that reform of the Palestinian Authority is a precondition for renewing the peace process.
Almost simultaneously, US Secretary of State Colin Powell refuted this claim. In a press briefing with British Foreign Minister Jack Straw, the secretary said that, in the meetings with Sharon, “We’ve talked about the need to see reform within the Palestinian Authority… but we didn’t get into any detailed discussions [about] what might be a precondition for something else.”
The truth is, it doesn’t matter anyway. For even if the Americans had agreed to condition talks on reform as the Israeli source claimed, the Palestinians they hope will replace Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat – Muhammad Dahlan, Muhammad Rashid, and Saeb Erekat – will bring no change. Not only has Dahlan, the Preventive Security Service chief in Gaza, done nothing to combat terrorism in his area of responsibility, his organization has been directly responsible for terrorism against Israelis. The attack against the schoolbus from Kfar Darom in November 2000, which killed three adults and maimed 4 children, for instance, was carried out by his deputy.
As for combating corruption, Rashid, now touted as the future financial boss, is the present financial boss. Aside from Arafat, who empowered him with total prerogative over all PA finances, there is no one in the PA more responsible for its corruption and lack of financial transparency than Rashid.
Saeb Erekat, the diplomatic dynamo of the trio, is a glaring example of the rift between the PA leadership and the Palestinian people. Few Palestinians are known so well abroad yet pull so little weight at home as Erekat. In short, the planned replacement team will simply bring more of the same – more terrorism, more corruption, and more diplomatic paralysis. And of course, according to Powell, its ascent to leadership is not a condition for restarting negotiations.
General crowing about reforming the PA aside, the only action item that came directly from Sharon’s visit in Washington was Bush’s announcement that he is sending CIA Director George Tenet back here next week to “help rebuild a security force in Palestine that will fight terror, that will bring some stability to the region.” Powell assured journalists that Tuesday night’s massacre in Rishon Lezion will in no way delay Tenet’s mission.
Sadly, the clear, inescapable message emanating this week from Washington is that pro forma condemnations of mass murder of Israeli civilians aside, terrorism against Israel pays off. Kill Jews, and your security forces will be strengthened. Call for millions of martyrs to march to Jerusalem, and your removal from power and reform of your terrorist proto-state will not be preconditions for renewed negotiations or further Israeli concessions.
In his photo opportunity with the prime minister, the president repeatedly extolled the Saudi regime. Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, Bush said, is “the man who laid out the vision for peace.” Here, too, the president signaled that there is no price to pay for aiding and abetting terrorism. After all, the Saudi Crown Prince discusses his vision of a rump Jewish state which, once bereft of defensible borders, will be recognized by the Arab League, while also paying families of dead bombers $5,340 each and transferring tens of millions of dollars to Hamas and Islamic Jihad to fund continued terrorism against Israel.
Bush did not limit his remarks to the need to rebuild Palestinian security forces; he also managed to hint that he sees justification for suicide bombers. Sitting next to Sharon, just half an hour after the deadly attack in Rishon Lezion, Bush noted, “I deeply hurt when there is a lack of hope for moms and dads of anybody – Palestinian moms and dads – it bothers me. It bothers me to think there are some whose children are so hopeless they’re willing to commit suicide.”
Bush had nothing to say of the Palestinian media and school system that teaches children to channel their hopelessness into acts of mass murder. He had not a word to say about the hopelessness of the hundreds of newly orphaned Israeli children whose parents were murdered by these children of Palestine.
This situation is appalling and alarming. It is appalling, because the clear line now emanating from the White House is the same as that emanating from the UN and the EU – namely, Israel is expendable. While Israel is a staunch, unwavering US ally fighting the same enemies the US fights in its war on terrorism, while Israel serves as a forward base for the free world in its struggle against rogue regimes hell bent on achieving the capabilities to attack the US and Europe with weapons of mass destruction, attacks against Israel are tolerated, even understood and justified.
The president’s clear message that he has chosen the Saudis over Israel is alarming because the US administration is the only ally Israel has. Israel has no diplomatic recourse anywhere else in the world. The UN is an organ devoted to undermining Israel’s right to exist. The EU is a body devoted to selling Israel out to curry favor with the Arab world. Asian countries, while happy to buy weapons systems from Israel, have no dog in this fight.
How did Sharon react to the administration’s new policy toward Israel? With the only weapon at Israel’s disposal – the truth. To the administration’s expressed admiration for the Saudi dictatorship, Sharon said he would be happy to invite the Saudis to participate in a peace conference once they stop supporting terrorism. Sharon dispatched Education Minister Limor Livnat to lay down the evidence that the visionary leadership of Saudi Arabia is a prime force for terrorism against Israel and for strengthening the most radical elements in a radicalized Palestinian society.
To the administration’s insistence that Israel must accept the US plan to reconstitute the war-fighting capabilities of Arafat and his lieutenants, Sharon responded by explaining that Arafat is a terrorist and the PA a terrorist entity. To back him up, Sharon sent Minister-without-Portfolio Dan Naveh out in front of the cameras to lay down the documentary evidence that Arafat and his lieutenants are directly responsible for mass murder of Israeli civilians; for forcing their Palestinian subjects to act as human shields for terrorists; and for using EU funds to finance war crimes against Israel.
The truth is, of course, highly inconvenient. Accepting the fact that the Israeli-Arab conflict is in fact the Arab conflict with Israel means facing up to Saudi lies and changing the way Saudi Arabia is treated in spite of its oil wealth. Understanding that the Palestinian Authority and the regimes that support it fight Israel not to build a Palestinian state but to destroy the Jewish state, means that one needs to think long and hard about the nature of Palestinian nationalism. It is so much easier and quicker to speak of the “hopelessness” of mass murderers.
Ignoring reality is easier than accepting the truth and the Palestinians and their supporters, by using terrorism instead of regular armies to fight Israel, make doing so seem almost moral. In his remarks on Wednesday, Powell laid bare this phenomenon when he said, “Every time one of these events [massacres of Israelis] happens, it takes us off the course we were on for a while.” Israelis know, and when it happens to them the Americans know, that terrorism is not simply “one of these events,” but a strategic threat to their very existence. The problem is that by targeting civilian
s rather than soldiers, by hiding behind civilians rather than protecting them, terrorists make it difficult for democracies to explain or accept that they are fighting a war, and that a total war for their destruction is being waged against them. After all, on Tuesday only 15 people were killed, and during the bloody month of March, only 130 people were killed. Israel’s army remains intact. Over the past 20 months, enemy forces have destroyed only two tanks.
The Palestinian method to destroy Israel (i.e. to liberate Palestine) is to use terrorism to make life unbearable for Israelis. And life is unbearable today. Not only is our economy falling apart as Israelis risk their lives to buy shoes or join friends for a cup of coffee less and less, but today we know that we cannot even sleep securely in our own beds, as the Palestinians have taken to breaking into our homes to shoot us while we and our children are asleep.
This is a sustained, coordinated, pre-planned war and Israel is forced to fight it with both hands strapped behind its back, because the international community refuses to acknowledge reality.
Sharon promised that while in Washington he would lay out “the most detailed peace plan” ever developed. As expected, he didn’t really have anything new to say, but not, apparently, because he lacks a vision for a peaceful Middle East. Rather, in the current climate, where the administration has chosen to turn its back on reality in favor of the repeatedly tried and repeatedly failed policy of appeasement toward the Arabs and pressure on Israel adopted by the last eight administrations, all he can do is tell the truth.
The IDF is now poised to launch an operation against the terrorist infrastructures in the Gaza Strip that will probably take a few weeks if not longer to complete. Given the US’s new stand, we can safely assume that pressure that has already begun not to do anything “irrevocable” to Arafat and his terror bases will reach a fever pitch after 48-72 hours of fighting. Israel will plow through for a week or two, and the US and the EU will then proceed to rebuild within months the terror infrastructure the IDF manages to destroy.
Come July, August, the Palestinians will have reconstituted their strength. Israelis will again be murdered by the dozens on a daily basis, the IDF will be unleashed again by the government and then curbed by international pressure. The carnage, the targeting of civilians by the Palestinians, and the targeting of military commanders by the Israelis will be referred to by the world as “tragic events” and “cycles of violence,” and Israelis will continue to die.
Ariel Sharon through all of this will continue to tell the truth and take what measures he can to protect as much as possible the lives of Israelis so expendable to the high-minded diplomats. The carnage will end only when the Bush administration finally sets aside these diplomatic delusions and opens its eyes to the truth that will never disappear.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post