Prime Minister Olmert has announced that in the course of his meetings with President George W. Bush, besides discussing Iran, he intends to reassure the president that Israel will remain highly flexible and make every effort to enhance the status of our “peace partner,” Mahmoud Abbas.
Such a message would be utterly inappropriate. Now is the time for our prime minister to speak the truth to President Bush. He should alert him that under current circumstances, no meaningful outcome from our negotiations with the Palestinians is likely, and that raising false expectations could be highly counterproductive.
President Bush is a true friend of Israel. In contrast to his predecessors, once he recognized the evil and duplicitous nature of Yasser Arafat, he severed relations and effectively marginalized him. He also brought to an end the era of moral equivalency during which Palestinian murderers and Israeli victims were both regarded as equal components of a senseless cycle of violence. In addition, Bush endorsed Israel’s right to defensible borders and became the first Western leader to state that when boundaries are finalized, demographic facts on the ground will need to be taken into account – a clear endorsement for Israeli retention of the major settlement blocs. And at Annapolis, despite all its ambivalences, the president unequivocally reiterated that Israel is a “Jewish state,” bluntly contradicting the Palestinians, who vowed that they would never come to terms with a Jewish entity.
Indeed, unless the White House reverses these policies, history will judge President Bush as the most pro-Israeli president to date, a leader who resisted pressures from many of his allies to appease the Palestinians and courageously maintained a principled approach toward the Jewish state.
Regrettably, over the past year there have been ominous indications that the State Department has begun tilting its policy against Israel and reverting to its former failed strategy of appeasement.
The offensive remarks recently expressed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, comparing Palestinian suffering with the discrimination she as an African-American underwent from white supremacists, exemplify a new confrontational stance. She has also been adopting language reminiscent of moral equivalency, implying that both parties to the conflict are equally culpable.
The atmosphere became further strained when, on the eve of the Presidential visit, Rice described Jewish suburbs of east Jerusalem – specifically mentioning Har Homa – as “settlements.” With Olmert having impulsively ceded to the Americans the role of determining adherence to the road map, a real confrontation with the US is looming.
In a similar vein, the brutal pressures exerted over the past year by Rice against Israel have, for the first time, led to a questioning of her role as an honest broker. This followed a series of tough demands on Israel to “ease the suffering of the Palestinians” by making further unilateral concessions which impacted disastrously on Israel’s security.
The most glaring example was the insistence that Israel give up the Philadelphi Corridor, which enabled the flood of armaments into Gaza from Egypt. But even as the arms continued to pour in, Rice demanded that Israel reduce checkpoints, release terrorists and provide arms to PA security forces, arms that were subsequently employed against Israelis.
These actions have already resulted in the murder of innocent Israeli civilians, and will inevitably lead to more bloodshed.
Some of these disastrous changes may have been avoided had the Israeli government displayed a modicum of resistance to the initial American pressures. Regrettably, Israel frequently anticipated and even exceeded American demands.
For example, it was Prime Minister Olmert, not the Americans, who dispensed with the road map requirement that the terrorist militias be dissolved before the commencement of final status negotiations. It was Israel which requested that Congress waive conditions it intended imposing in relation to financial aid to the PA.
Public support for Israel may be at a peak in the US, but one cannot expect the US administration to be more supportive of Israel’s security requirements than its own government.
Were it anyone other than Ehud Olmert, one would expect the prime minister of Israel to urge President Bush to uphold the fundamental principles relating to fighting terror and Islamic fundamentalism which he has promoted over the years. Instead of groveling to illusionary peace partners and automatically succumbing to every American demand, our prime minister should appeal to the president to frustrate State Department initiatives designed to make Israel a sacrificial lamb to compensate for the “bigger picture.”
President Bush should be reminded that the Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria is not the by-product of an Israeli invasion but the response to an Arab invasion designed to wipe Israel off the map. Even so, the majority of Israelis would today support the creation of a Palestinian state; but certainly not an extended Hamastan.
Our prime minister must surely urge President Bush to demand that the Palestinians now confront reality. In recent weeks, three young Israelis have been brutally murdered by members of the Fatah militia under the control of Abbas. Surely President Bush will appreciate that if, under such circumstances, Israel continues making unilateral concessions, all the wrong messages will be conveyed to the Palestinians. If there is to be a serious process, President Bush must demand that Abbas now substitute action for his duplicitous words and belatedly dismantle the terrorist militias under his jurisdiction.
The president should also be reminded that vicious incitement against Israel continues unabated at every level of Palestinian society. And that it is unconscionable to demand that Israel collaborate in creating a state under whose jurisdiction, shaheeds (suicide bombers) will continue to be sanctified and their families compensated with state pensions. Not to mention an educational system which encourages Palestinian children to accept martyrdom while killing Jews as a noble sacrifice.
Above all, our prime minister should impress upon President Bush that before Israel considers further concessions in the framework of a final status agreement, the Palestinians must come to terms with Israel as a Jewish state. Having recently proclaimed that he would not renege on this issue, it is surely outrageous for Prime Minister Olmert to now publicly proclaim that he is satisfied because he “thinks” that Abbas “accepts Israel in his soul.” So long as the Palestinians persist with their so-called Arab right of return, they are effectively proclaiming that they will never reconcile themselves to coexisting with Jewish sovereignty. That remains the source of the conflict.
President Bush must now take a public stand. He would demonstrate that he is no lame duck by bluntly telling Abbas the truth, insisting that if he remains either unwilling or unable to undertake steps to curb terrorism and incitement, he can no longer qualify as a peace partner.
Finally, President Bush should be reminded of his repeated declarations warning that the appeasement of jihadism has in every instance only served to embolden terrorists everywhere. Appeasement not only contradicts the president’s own agenda and threatens to destroy his legacy, it also symbolizes a violation of all that our civilization represents.
The writer is a veteran international Jewish leader. [email protected]ision.net.il
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