President Bush may declare as early as this week an end to the Iraq war, but he appears ready to press ahead with the "road map" to establish a Palestinian state that can only jeopardize the continued existence of Israel.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says the road map - drafted last year by the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations - will be published once the new Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, is confirmed by the Palestinian cabinet.
This is sham Middle East theater. Having gained so many concessions from Israelis without living up to a single agreement they have signed, Palestinian leaders are not about to rescind their political-religious objective of eliminating Israel as a state and the Jewish presence in the region. The administration is as anxious to declare victory in the maddening Middle East conflict as the Nixon administration was to end the Vietnam War. Thirty years ago, President Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger trumpeted "peace with honor" following talks with North Vietnamese leaders in Paris. South Vietnam soon fell to the Communists, who had never abandoned their vision of one country under their dictatorial control. Israel could easily become like South Vietnam - overrun by its enemy - if the "road map" is implemented.
Among the road map's many problems is that it fails to fulfill President Bush's own conditions. In a speech last June, the president said the United States will not support the establishment of a Palestinian state until its leaders engage in a "sustained fight against the terrorists and dismantle their infrastructure." That is unlikely to happen since terrorism has been the official policy of Yasser Arafat and his bloody band of brothers for more than 30 years. The faux "democracy" that Abbas supposedly represents is about as credible as one of Saddam Hussein's near-unanimous elections.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said there can be no lasting peace in Northern Ireland until the Irish Republican Army destroys its hidden weapons, renounces violence and commits to a political process. He is right about that, but wrong when he and President Bush want to push ahead with their Middle East road map without making similar demands of the Palestinian leaders.
The new Palestinian cabinet is full of Arafat supporters. As many as 14 ministers are expected to be old Arafat appointees with just four to six loyal to Abbas (also known as Abu Mazen). While Abbas controls one "security" organization, Arafat still commands many far larger ones. Arafat refuses to accept Abbas' "demand" that the armed factions of Fatah, such as the Al-Aqsa martyrs brigade, be dissolved. Arafat will continue to be the puppeteer, no matter whom the audience sees on stage. He will resemble Richard Gere in the film "Chicago," pulling the strings and providing words for his dancing marionettes.
Abbas retains his hard-line views. If implemented, they will jeopardize Israel's very existence. In an interview last month, he continued to justify "armed struggle" against Israeli civilians. He has never repudiated his 1983 book, The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and the Zionist Movement, which denies the Holocaust occurred.
The minimum requirement before moving ahead with any "road map" is for Abbas and his cabinet to renounce violence as a means of achieving their objectives and then begin dismantling the terror infrastructure that has murdered schoolchildren and adult civilians for more than three decades. If that happens, the pressure will shift to Israel to reciprocate. But it won't happen because this conflict isn't about "two states living side by side in peace," as President Bush wants. It is about creating a new state that will be used as a base to eliminate Israel.
That Palestinian objective won't change because abolishing Israel is in the corrupted blood of Arafat and all his henchmen, including Abbas. The standard for compliance about violence should be no different from that applied to the IRA by Tony Blair in Northern Ireland or to Saddam Hussein in Iraq.
Surely President Bush knows this. Perhaps he is merely staging his own political theater to expose Arafat and company as the liars they are. That's fine, but Israel should not be required to buy a ticket to this show until it sees the last act.