WASHINGTON--President Bush held two Middle East summits this week. The first, with the Arab states, was an abject failure. The second, with the prime ministers of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, was merely a troubling echo of another abject failure, the Oslo handshake of 1993.
Let's be plain about what happened at Sharm el-Sheik. The president of the United States put his prestige on the line for the sake of Arab-Israeli peace and the Arab states gave him nothing. They refused to endorse Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. They spoke of their opposition to ``terrorism,'' even as they repeatedly present their own publics with the most elaborate intellectual and religious justifications of why the killing of Jews in ``Palestine'' is ``resistance'' and not terrorism.
They did not take a single concrete action, not even a gesture, toward Israel. Egypt did not offer to return its ambassador to Israel. The Saudis threatened a boycott if Israel was even invited. And most important, the Arab states refused what Bush most desperately wanted: explicit endorsement of the American view that Yasser Arafat's time had come and passed.
That would have been crucial in elevating Mahmoud Abbas, who appears to want to make peace. What did Bush do? What American presidents always do in response to such rebuffs: smile politely and say thank you.
Then on to the second summit at Aqaba. Here, Bush managed to extract enormous concessions from Israel. Ariel Sharon's speech was revolutionary. He explicitly recognized the legitimacy of a Palestinian state. He further recognized that the state would need to be ``contiguous,'' which instantly conceded to the Palestinians the overwhelming majority of the territories in the West Bank and Gaza. And even more painful for Sharon was his statement, largely overlooked, that ``no unilateral actions by any party can prejudge the outcome of our negotiations.'' ``Unilateral actions'' is Middle East-speak for settlements, which means that in drawing the final border between Israel and Palestine, Jewish settlements would be of no account.
This is a serious moving of the goalposts. What did Bush get out of Abbas? Did Abbas recognize Israel as a Jewish state? No. He refused to give up the Palestinian principle of ``return,'' which means eradicating Israel by flooding it with millions of Palestinian refugees (the overwhelming majority of whom, by the way, have never lived in Israel). Yet without recognition of Israel as a Jewish state there is nothing to prevent the disaster of Camp David 2000 when Arafat, after pocketing truly astonishing Israeli concessions, insisted at the last minute that there would be no deal unless Israel agreed to commit suicide by allowing the refugees to move to Israel, instead of to their homeland of Palestine.
What did Abbas offer? An end to terrorism. Fine. But until the lip service is carried out, this is nothing but a restatement of the famous letter from Arafat to Rabin--September 1993--in which he pledged that ``the PLO renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence.''
At Aqaba, Abbas recognized Israel. So did Arafat pretend to 10 years ago in the very first line of the Oslo agreement.
Abbas pledged there will be no more incitement of hatred against Israel-- another repetition of another Oslo pledge. The Palestinians then spent the next decade poisoning their children with the worst anti-Semitic propaganda since the Third Reich.
What then happened at Aqaba? Israel bought the same rug a second time. In 1993, it bought supposed recognition, a supposed end to violence, and a supposed end to incitement by recognizing the PLO, bringing Arafat and his terrorists out of Tunis, planting them in the heart of Palestine, giving them control of all the major Palestinian cities, outfitting his army with Israeli (!) rifles, etc.
In 2003, the rug was sold again, this time fetching Israeli acceptance of a Palestinian state with contiguous borders in which Israeli settlements are uprooted. This might be the outline of the final settlement. But these were concessions given away before the negotiations even began.
The unilateral surrender of Israel continues.
Now, forcing the unilateral surrender of Israel might be a policy, if it promised peace. But the first round of unilateral concessions--from 1993 to 2000--yielded nothing but the establishment of a terror base in Palestine, a ``Trojan horse'' as Faisal Husseini called it, from which the bloodiest Palestinian violence ever has been launched.
There is only one hope that we will not repeat that doleful experiment. And that is if Bush is serious--as Clinton was not--about requiring more than just words from the Palestinians. Abbas must end the incitement, stop the violence and disarm the terrorists. Bush, having taken his friend Sharon to the cleaners, needs now to make sure that Abbas keeps his word.