Career bureaucrats -- like those running the State Department who, at best, can scarcely conceal their contempt for the people elected to run the country -- are fond of saying “What the President meant to say is....” In this case, State and its Quartet partners have contorted the President’s intention so as to enable one of the Palestinian caudillo’s most faithful lieutenants, Mahmoud Abbas, to be hand-picked by Arafat but nonetheless represented as a real partner for peace with the Israelis.
Arafat and Abu Mazen (Abbas’ nom de guerre -- it tells you something about this man’s commitment to peace with Israel that he has a guerilla nickname) even performed a little drama designed to demonstrate for Western consumption that the lieutenant, not his boss, would now control the official security apparatus and, as a result, be able to crack down on Palestinian terrorists. This gambit was reminiscent of another of Arafat’s theatrical performances a few years back when, to demonstrate his commitment to live in peace with Israel, he was supposed to secure the elimination of dozens of provisions in the Palestinian Charter calling for the destruction of Jews and their State. Just as these provisions remain unchanged to this day, power still rests in the hands of those who espouse jihad against Israel.
Second, President Bush also indicated last June that Israel would not be expected to accept a Palestinian state unless and until terrorism ceased to be waged against the Jewish State. But the Quartet had other plans. It adopted a timetable for recognition of a State of Palestine that was geared, not to an end of the threat to Israel, but to a predetermined calendar: The boundaries of a provisional state to be fixed by as early as the end of 2003; a full-fledged and internationally recognized state not later than 2005. And while the Palestinians would be required to "undertake visible efforts...to arrest, disrupt and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis" (“visible,” being the operative term, not “successful”), the Israelis would be obliged from the get-go to make tangible and possibly irreversible steps. For example, they must pull out of forward defensive positions in Palestinian areas, stop further growth of settlements, etc.
In short, the “road map” for Mideast peace offered up by the Quartet appears more likely to prove a “road trap” for one of the parties, Israel -- and for a President who, more than any other in history, has committed himself to the survival and security of the Jewish State. Such a prospect is all the more absurd given the unprecedented opportunities a post-Saddam Middle East could present for a genuine, just and durable peace between Israel and new, non-radical Arab regimes in the region.
In his inspiring address on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln last week, President Bush warned that “Any person, organization, or government that supports, protects, or harbors terrorists is complicit in the murder of the innocent, and equally guilty of terrorist crimes.” It can only be hoped that the State Department, the rest of the Quartet and the Palestinian sponsors of terrorism on whom they hope to confer a state understood what the President surely meant to say -- both now and last June: He will not be party to surrendering Israeli security, any more than our own, to those determined to destroy freedom-loving peoples and societies.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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