Two states of mind

Posted: Jun 13, 2002 12:00 AM
The score is 6-0, which represents the number of times Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has visited President Bush vs. the administration shutout of Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat. Sharon has gotten what he wants from the president. Bush backs Israel's "right to self defense" as it pursues homicide bombers who target civilians. The president also seems indulgent of Sharon's position not to negotiate with Arafat as long as the violence continues. During Sharon's latest visit to Washington, a "senior Israeli official," speaking only on background, flatly stated that Arafat is becoming "irrelevant" and that he "should be ignored." Israel, he said, may have to wait for Arafat's successor before there are any negotiations about a Palestinian state. That is not the position taken by Secretary of State Colin Powell, who says that President Bush will announce "in the very near future" how he intends to secure a Palestinian state and that the United States intends to move ahead with a Middle East peace conference this summer. The senior Israeli official said that while Sharon would like to attend a proposed international peace conference this summer, Israel rejects international involvement in making peace with the Palestinians. "Talks should be bilateral only," said the official, who added, "we won't negotiate under fire and we are tired of promises, lies, talks, declarations and empty words." President Bush knows the game. He understands that the Palestinians could have had their state at any time over the last 54 years if they had renounced violence and their objective of eradicating Israel. Former Israeli communications and policy official Michael Freund noted in last Wednesday's (June 12) Jerusalem Post that Prime Minister Levi Eshkol proposed opening direct negotiations with the Arab states in 1965 in order to turn the 1949 armistice agreements into full-fledged peace treaties. The Arab response was the 1967 war, the purpose of which was declared by Egyptian President Nasser: "Our basic aim will be to destroy Israel." Only the strategy for meeting that objective has changed. Charts were passed out by the official to a small group of journalists. They show the progress made by Israeli forces in their incursions into Jenin and other terrorist strongholds. The official said there would have been far more homicide bombings had not Israel rooted out terrorists in these areas. There were predictions from the official that Iran will have nuclear weapons by 2005. There are also reports that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein (and aren't they all dictators in that region?) will be able to put chemical weapons on his Scud missiles much sooner. Hezbollah, the terrorist group based in Syrian-occupied Lebanon, presents another threat on Israel's northern border, though Israeli withdrawal from the region was supposed to advance the "peace process." That's the point. Whatever concessions Israel makes for "peace" are reciprocated by war because Israel's enemies hate the existence of the Jewish state and the Jewish people. Nothing the United States does or doesn't do, and nothing that Israel does or doesn't do (short of expiring) will change that. Creating a Palestinian state without a renunciation and cessation of violence will produce sovereignty issues that will do more to threaten the existence of Israel than the five wars and terrorist attacks have done. A Palestinian state without a genuine peace treaty will be a haven for terrorists and for weapons that can, and will, be used for a final assault on Israel. Since last June, 519 Israelis have been killed and 4,071 wounded in terrorist attacks. The senior official said that is proportional to 31,000 dead Americans and 250,000 wounded, a situation the United States would not tolerate. The official said, contrary to press reports, that Israel has not been pressured into going easy in its military response to terrorism. He added, "We never received a green light for any military operation and we never asked for one." The administration ought to give itself a green light to topple Saddam Hussein. That would send a clear message to the Arab world that the United States will fight terrorism anywhere American interests are threatened. Only then might it be possible for a "moderate" leader to replace Arafat and for Israel to have a legitimate negotiating partner. But not before.