Ma'aleh Adumim defines the Israeli consensus in much the same way that falafel balls and Tel Aviv beaches do. Aside from some serious crazies on the extreme Left of the political spectrum, you aren't going to find Israelis who don't view Ma'aleh Adumim as an organic part of Israel, just like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Even when Ehud Barak moved from negotiating with Yasser Arafat at Camp David to begging Arafat to sign a deal, any deal at Taba, he still maintained that Ma'aleh Adumim, located ten minutes outside of Jerusalem, would remain part of Israel. Even when Bill Clinton announced his "final offer" to Arafat in December 2000 that included transferring the Temple Mount to PLO sovereignty, Ma'aleh Adumim remained part of Israel.
But suddenly this week we have the Bush administration, less than three months before the presidential elections, demanding that Israel not build in Ma'aleh Adumim. We have State Department officials and spokesmen skewering Israel for announcing plans to build 600 more housing units in the city with more than 30,000 residents. According to Ha'aretz, we even have a senior administration source threatening that "When President Bush is elected for a second term he will no longer treat [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon as he did the first term."
And it isn't only the State Department. According to press accounts, Elliott Abrams, the National Security Council's point man for Israel and the Palestinians arrived here Wednesday armed with strong words for Prime Minister Sharon the gist of which is, "Stop building in the settlements, or else."
The Bush administration's anger at the plan to build in Ma'aleh Adumim is wrong for three reasons. First of all, it makes no sense in the context of the administration's stated policy toward Israel. The Bush administration's policy toward the Palestinian war with Israel is that the Palestinians must reform to the point where they become an anti-terrorist democratic society. Once that happens, the US will support the establishment of a democratic Palestinian state that will exist west of the Jordan River and live at peace with Israel.
In the unlikely event that such a transformation of Palestinian society were to occur within the next generation, it is impossible to understand why an additional six hundred Israeli families living in the city of Ma'aleh Adumim will be a problem to anyone. If the Palestinians are democratic and anti-terrorist and therefore willing to live at peace with Israel, then they would surely be able to accept that Ma'aleh Adumim is one of the places beyond the 1949 cease-fire lines that will remain part of Israel forever. And if they cannot accept that position but rather insist that Ma'aleh Adumim belongs under Palestinian sovereignty, then surely a democratic, anti-terrorist Palestinian state won't have a problem with the ten percent of Palestine which is Jewish just as Israel doesn't have a problem with the Israeli Arabs who make up twenty percent of the Israeli population.
Indeed, it would be downright racist for the US to acquiesce to a demand that the peaceful, democratic, anti-terrorist State of Palestine west of the Jordan River become yet another Judenrein Arab state like Saudi Arabia. And if the Bush administration does foresee that the nascent Palestinian state will in fact be Judenrein then they are behaving immorally. Basing a foreign policy on inherently racialist assumptions is antithetical to everything the US stands for. And a policy which assumes that Jews must be barred from living freely in a Palestinian state is racist to the core.
Secondly, the Bush administration's policy towards the Palestinians is antithetical and counterproductive to its entire war against global terrorism. Last month, Ghaleb Awali, a senior Hizbullah terrorist responsible for coordinating Hizbullah assistance to and direction of Palestinian terror operations was killed in Lebanon. In a departure from his previous policy, Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah admitted for the first time at Awali's funeral that Hizbullah is directly involved in the Palestinian war against Israel. On July 22nd, the Popular Resistance Committees, a terror umbrella group made up mainly of Fatah members and members of the PA's security forces held a memorial rally for Awali in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza. Members of the Islamic Jihad also participated. In front of a crowd of thousands, the organizers thanked Hizbullah for its assistance to the Palestinian cause. At the rally's conclusion, the crowd broke out in the traditional Hizbullah-Iranian slogan of "Death to America! Death to Israel!" as they burned US and Israeli flags.
The Palestinian jihad against Israel is part and parcel of the global jihad against the West. The war on Israel is no different in means or ends than the war taking place in the Philippines or Afghanistan or Iraq. And the need for stalwart, continuous pressure to be applied harshly on both the terrorists and the regimes that support them, which informs US policy everywhere else in the world, is needed in the case of the Palestinians. When America calls for Israel to compromise, or insists on engaging every single member of the Palestinian Authority except for Arafat, it is shooting itself in the foot. The notion that the 13 separate terrorist militias that Arafat formed since 1994 under the guise of "security services" can be magically transformed into normal, anti-terrorist police forces once they are collapsed into three militias run by an Arafat lackey as opposed to Arafat himself, is absurd.
And Muhammed Dahlan, the Bush administration's "great white hope" for Palestinian reform is just as much of a terrorist as Arafat. Their dispute is not over the jihad. It is a rivalry between thieves who can no longer figure out a way to share their loot. So it is that in an interview last week, Dahlan did not hesitate to express his sympathy for the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Fatah's terrorist arm. "I am proud of defending them every time it was necessary. They are familiar [and the Palestinian people] are proud of their heroic operations, which brought dignity to the Palestinian people," Dahlan said.
When President Bush outlined his policy toward the Palestinian war against Israel in June 2002, he made it clear that for a Palestinian state to be established, the Palestinians would first need to choose new leaders who were not "tainted by terror." Yet two years later there is still not one prominent Palestinian leader who is not a member of an active terrorist organization. The Bush administration's refusal to allow Israel to dismantle the PA's militias, which are all tainted by terror, makes it impossible for any alternative Palestinian leadership to emerge. Whether it is the so-called "old guard" of Fatah, or "new guard" of Fatah, it is still Fatah, and all of the factions of Fatah, like their colleagues in Hamas and Islamic Jihad, agree on one thing: as much as they may hate each other, they hate Israel more.
The most bizarre aspect of the Bush administration's policy toward Israel, particularly as it is exposed by statements about Ma'aleh Adumim, is that aside from rhetoric, there is no significant difference between how it perceives Israel and how the Carter administration perceived Israel. As president, Jimmy Carter failed to recognize the fact that the root of the Arab-Israeli conflict is the Arab world's official refusal since 1922 to agree to the presence of a Jewish sovereign state in the Levant. The Palestinian war with Israel is simply a consequence of the overall refusal of the Arab League to accept the existence of Israel as a Jewish state within any boundaries. Rather than accept this state of affairs, Carter preferred the path of denial and appeasement, which involved putting pressure on Israel and condemni
ng Israel for somehow being responsible for Arab racism and rejection.
In every other area of the Middle East, and indeed in every other aspect of its foreign policy, the Bush administration has bravely sought to place blame where it belongs – on rogue states and terror supporting regimes rather than on the victims of their absolutism and aggression, be those victims the Iraqi people under Saddam Hussein, the Afghan people under the Taliban, the Iranian people under the ayatollahs, the North Korean people under the Stalinist regime in Pyongyang or the American people who are targeted by al Qaida and its state sponsors.
While Carter's presidency is remembered as a colossal failure by almost all Americans, in truth, his view of the world still stands at the center of the polarization of American politics. Carter's view of America as tasked with advancing the cause of human rights only when those rights are perceived as being suppressed by America or its fellow democracies – and never when human rights are suppressed by totalitarian dictatorships – is by and large the view of the Kerry campaign.
While the Bush administration has sensibly discarded this view as so much nonsense, particularly in the post-September 11 world, for some reason, the Bush administration still clings to Carter's view of Israel.
In the months before the US presidential election, it behooves those who desire an American victory against the global jihad to demand that the Bush administration finally discard the Carter doctrine once and for all. Regardless of how inconvenient it may be for appeasement minded State Department officials to accept, the fact of the matter is that Israel and the US are fighting the same war against the same enemies.
In refusing to integrate this reality into its overall foreign policy, the Bush administration is acting as a Kerry administration most certainly would. It is strengthening America's enemies and weakening the cause of freedom throughout the world.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.