Secretary of State Colin Powell told a University of Louisville audience last Monday that he has a "vision" for peace in the Middle East. It's more like a mirage.
Powell indulged in the familiar wishful thinking about the region and asserted things that are factually not true.
Powell cited "negotiations" at Madrid in 1991 and Oslo in 1993, which he said were examples of opportunities for peace that might again be available. In fact, Israel ceded land in those deals, which it had seized to protect itself from aggressive Arab states and terrorist Palestinian acts. Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat promised to make peace, not war.
Instead, he made, and continues to make, war.
"We have a vision of a region where two states - Israel and Palestine - live side by side within secure and recognized borders," said Powell. That's not Arafat's vision. In 1974, Arafat and his henchmen concocted a "Plan of Phases." Phase One is doing whatever is necessary to force Israel to relinquish land, while giving nothing in return. Phase Two is the "liberation" of the rest of the land, including the Jewish state itself. Palestinian schoolbooks carry maps of "Palestine" that do not include Israel.
Powell's "vision" is "of a region where all people worship God in a spirit of tolerance and understanding." He cannot point to a single Islamic state where tolerance and understanding are extended to non-Muslims. What makes him think a Palestinian state would exhibit anything but hostility toward anyone who does not toe its political and theological line?
Powell commendably called on the Palestinian side to cease violence before negotiations with Israel can begin, but Arafat alternately says he can, or can't control the violence. Besides, violence is not an aberration, it is part of the Plan of Phases. Arafat's vision differs from Powell's. Arafat wants it all. If he didn't, he would have accepted the deal offered him in 2000 by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak for 95 percent of the "occupied territories," with Israel compensating Arafat with its own territory for at least part of the remaining five percent. If settlements were an impediment to peace (which amount to just 1.5 percent of the occupied territories), the Barak offer should have been sufficient to produce an agreement.
Powell didn't mention Palestinian communities in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and Gaza, which, according to Israeli government estimates, are being built at 10 times the rate of Jewish "settlements." The Oslo agreement does not prohibit Israel from building on West Bank land, but one might think so to listen to Powell, who called for an end to "settlement" construction.
Some of Israel's detractors are critical of the U.S. aid it receives. But the United States sends $100 million annually to Palestinian Arabs. In his address, Powell spoke of the need to create a vibrant Palestinian economy. Why hasn't that money been used to improve the lot of Palestinians and why is Arafat not held accountable for misspending it?
Powell called for the arrest, prosecution and punishment of "the perpetrators of terrorist acts." That won't happen. On the rare occasions when Arafat orders someone's arrest, the culprit is released within a short period of time.
"Palestinians must accept that they can only achieve their goals through negotiation," Powell said Monday.
Every concession wrung from Israel has come from violence and U.S. pressure. Why should Arafat negotiate when terror has been so effective?
Powell spoke of the "innocent Palestinians, including children" who have been killed or wounded in the past 14 months of violence. But most, if not all of these, have been put in the front lines and urged to throw rocks in hopes that they will be wounded or killed to make Israel look bad and force her into new concessions. Powell neglected to mention the innocent Israelis who are regularly (ital) targeted (end ital) for death by Palestinians.
Powell made numerous false assumptions in his speech, chief among them that the Palestinians would be satisfied with their own state adjacent to Israel.
Their behavior since 1947, when they were offered just such a deal, proves otherwise.
If Arafat is serious about peace, he'll stop the violence for a 7-day "cooling-off period," as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has demanded. Otherwise, what is there to negotiate?