President Bush outlined a courageous, bold and just pathway to Middle East peace with his speech on Monday. The speech was courageous because it gave the Palestinians hope for achieving statehood. No other president has ever voiced support for the establishment of a Palestinian state so explicitly. The President's plan is bold because he called for the end of the current Palestinian leadership. Other presidents, not wanting to rock the boat, have accepted Yassir Arafat and his minions as legitimate Palestinian leaders despite their tactics of terror. Finally, the plan is just because it does not draw equivalence between Israel's actions and the actions of the Palestinians. It is simply wrong to believe that the murder of innocent civilians is morally similar to military action against people who have chosen to take up arms.
One of the persistent flaws of the "peace process" is that terrorism effectively forces Israel to negotiate with a gun to its head, a position that never yields a fair result at the negotiating table. Each iteration of peace talks usually begins with both parties--Israel and the Palestinian Authority--committing to a cease-fire. But during the peace talks, Israel is constantly attacked by groups like Hamas, Hizbollah and al Aqsa Martyr Brigades, which are technically separate from the Palestinian Authority. This separation gives the Palestinian Authority plausible deniability: they aren't the ones involved in the attacks, so while the attacks occur, the Palestinian Authority can claim that they're upholding their end of the cease-fire. But if Israel uses its military to defend itself against these terrorist groups, then Israel becomes the first violator of the cease-fire. This little loophole puts Israel in the unenviable position of being attacked first while also getting blamed for violating the cease-fire.
Although the Palestinian terror groups have exploited this loophole with Machiavellian effectiveness, the evidence shows that terrorism has been an official policy of the Palestinian Authority itself, from the Karine A incident, to the indoctrination of kindergarten-aged children, to Arafat's funneling money into al Aqsa Martyr Brigades, the group responsible for the a number of deadly hih-profile attacks. Terrorism has been directed by the Palestinian Authority from Arafat on down, and President Bush is the first Western leader with enough guts and honesty to call them on it.
While President Bush stated that his vision is "two states, living side by side in peace and security," he also said "the United States will not support the establishment of a Palestinian state until its leaders engage in a sustained fight against the terrorists and dismantle their infrastructure."
Unlike his European counterparts, President Bush understands that a durable peace can never be realized in the Middle East while terrorism is being used as a political lever. Noting that the Palestinian Authority is "encouraging, not opposing, terrorism," President Bush declared, "peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership, so that a Palestinian state can be born."
Essentially, the President said that, because of their terror tactics, Arafat and the Palestinian Authority will no longer be a part of the peace process--at least not if it's a peace process that involves the United States. In our war, President Bush said we would not bargain with regimes that support terror; thankfully, the President has resisted the voices of appeasement within his Administration who would have applied a different standard to Israel.
"Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories must stop," the President said. Most would agree that this is a reasonable request, given that the continued building of settlements is not necessary for Israel's security and is viewed by the Palestinians as an attempt to permanently annex the occupied territories. As a show of good faith--not that Israel has been the party negotiating in bad faith--the Israelis should immediately cease the building of settlements.
The President also stated that as Israel and the Palestinians "make progress towards security, Israeli forces need to withdraw fully to positions they held prior to September 28, 2000." This would reset things to where they stood before the current round of violence, but would only do so as progress is made towards security. In other words, the Israelis would not have to withdraw until the Palestinians have shown that they are capable of weaning themselves from terrorism.
President Bush sounded the most optimistic note by saying that with "intensive effort by all, this agreement could be reached within three years from now." That's a pretty tall order, of course. The first step is cleansing the culture of terrorism from Palestinian society. It is possible, but it not only requires that the Palestinians change, it requires a change on the part of the entire pan-Arab culture of Islamic fundamentalism that considers civilian murder a justified response to political disputes.
The real threat to peace in the Middle East comes from countries like Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Lebanon, who are attempting to fight Israel by proxy. These nations have been a fertile source of arms and money for Palestinian terrorists, and have contributed to the mass brainwashing that has convinced a frighteningly sizable number of Arabs that the world would be better off if Israel and the United States were wiped from the map.
Although the conflict in the Middle East may have originated as a dispute over land, it has grown into something much larger. Hate's appetite is never fulfilled, and radical Islam, which was bred out of the Arab-Israeli conflicts, has found a more tantalizing target: Westernism. Make no mistake about it: the Middle East conflict and the war that al Qaeda brought to us are one and the same. That's the reason why--despite the brilliance of the Bush plan--I am pessimistic about the chances for peace. The warriors that we face with Israel will not be satisfied with the establishment of a Palestinian state. They will be satisfied only when every Western nation is gone. This war--this World War--will end only when one of two things happens: either radical Islam will defeat Westernism, or Westernism will defeat radical Islam. In either case, it's likely to take a very long time.
|Copyright 2002, Evan Coyne Maloney||All Worldwide Rights Reserved|