President George W. Bush is a friend of Israel and has displayed understanding for our security concerns. Washington is the shield that protects Israel from total isolation in the international community. More than that, the United States is the power that stands between Israel and the abyss.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is therefore to be commended for doing his utmost to maintain that relationship. But having said that, the litmus test of a good relationship cannot be based on being obliged to endorse a blueprint that many experts, including the minister of defense, insist pose grave dangers to Israel’s future.
The government’s decision is an enormous gamble if it based solely on the vague American understandings we have heard about. It could lead to a historic catastrophe possibly eclipsing anything that the Oslo disaster has wrought.
The potential for disaster is exemplified by recent Kafkaesque State Department outpourings. Example: in the presence of the French foreign minister, Colin Powell pontificated that the road map was “a good document” and insisted that taking account of Israeli government reservations “does not require us to change the road map.”
Even were we dealing exclusively with the United States, vague warm words of good intentions would not suffice. But we are dealing with the Quartet.
And three of its members have a long track record of ugly bias against Israel. The European countries continue to publicly pay homage to Yasser Arafat. The perfidious French consider the existing road map to be biased in the interests of Israel! The Middle East coordinator of the dysfunctional United Nations, Terje Larson, has a long history of anti-Israel bias. He even participated in the libel against the IDF over Jenin, insinuating that massacres had taken place despite knowing the truth.
So unless there are secret protocols protecting Israel’s interests to which we cannot be privy, Prime Minister Sharon should have told President Bush that he was unable to proceed down a path which could jeopardize Israel’s very future.
He was in a strong position to do so. Saddam Hussein’s terror regime is no more. The US Congress carried a bipartisan resolution by a huge majority, urging the president not to pressure Israel into a road map that did not satisfy Jerusalem’s priorities. The Christian lobby is solidly pressing the president not to coerce Israel.
Given the spate of recent terror bombings, US public opinion is generally sympathetic to Israel’s case. Sharon consequently had no cause to “place our faith in princes” no matter how well intentioned or friendly they might be.
NOR DID Palestinian behavior oblige Sharon to placate Washington. Mahmoud Abbas’s (Abu Mazen) brief record is outrageous. He made it abundantly clear that Arafat remains the chief Mafioso “For us,” he said, “Abu Amar (Arafat) is the president elected by the Palestinian people, and we do not do anything without his approval.”
Even Abu Mazen’s inaugural speech, hailed for its moderation, reiterated that Palestinians have “fought with honor.” Whilst conceding that violence “has not benefited” the Palestinian cause, all that he has sought is a temporary cease-fire within the Green Line, enabling terror groups to regroup and initiate a new offensive at a time of their choosing.
It all has an eerie déjà vu ring to it, a replay of when we resurrected the already marginalized duplicitous murderer at the end of the first Gulf War, brought him into our very midst from Tunis, and transformed him into a Nobel Peace Laureate.
Yes, the road map has all the hallmarks of Oslo Accords Mark II – compromises without reciprocity to be hailed by the Quartet, who will replay all the old themes of “moral equivalency” and “cycles of violence” to induce Israel into unilateral concessions.
And this, just when Palestinians were slowly coming to the realization that Israel is here to stay and that Arafat’s resort to violence has only inflicted enormous misery on them without dividends.
With Abu Mazen refusing to destroy the terror infrastructure, the road map could well provide suicide bombers with a new lease on life.
Surely it is time to say enough is enough. The bleeding hearts here and abroad who urged us to negotiate under fire have had their say. Sharon must remain true to his oath not to negotiate under fire. He must remind President Bush of his oath not to entertain any truce with al-Qaida. And that is precisely what Abu Mazen’s relations with Hamas and Islamic Jihad amount to.
We must insist that we will continue to confront evil and terror by military force. Indeed, it is time to go after the head of the snake, those who incite to murder and publicly exult when our women and children are blown to pieces. They should be made to realize that their lives, and not only those of the actual killers, are at stake.
We may not be able to totally overcome terror. But despite 100 years of it, we have built up an extraordinary nation. We could not have done so in the absence of tough responses. The last one, Operation Defensive Shield, unquestionably radically reduced the incidence of terror. Our American friends should understand and appreciate that in the current climate, they face the same enemy.
A FEW weeks ago in the presence of Prime Minister Sharon, I asked the head of his Bureau, Dov Weisglass, why we were not promoting our case more assertively in the United States, especially as we have such strong support in Congress. His response, “leave it to us,” was not reassuring. It was reminiscent of remarks we were hearing from Israeli leaders during the Oslo heyday.
The extraordinary haste and unwillingness to provide for a thorough discussion in relation to an issue which could have such enormous ramifications for our future is equally reminiscent of the way the Oslo Accords were rushed through without adequate debate.
So yes, we can only hope and pray that the prime minister did enter into secret agreements with the Bush administration involving more than mere understandings.
If by endorsing this road map we endanger our future, our prime minister must bear the full burden of responsibility. We had a good case with ample time to prepare our friends. Central to that case was Yitzhak Rabin’s Oslo gamble, which created a disaster for the nation because we never had a genuine partner. We still don’t.
And if our prime minister is leading us to yet another strategic disaster, it will be far worse than Ehud Barak’s blindness because at least Barak was negotiating for an end game.
Even now at this late stage, Prime Minister Sharon should avoid adopting the disastrous Napoleonic postures of some of his predecessors and listen carefully to his allies and critics. They will urge him to endorse one thing: the sound principles outlined by President Bush in his June 24, 2002, Middle East speech, not the Quartet’s corruption of them. To that end, we would indeed be willing to make “painful sacrifices.”
The road map as endorsed this week by the Cabinet does not warrant painful sacrifices, for it has the potential of evolving into an inferior recycled version of the Oslo Accords which have already cost us too much blood.