WASHINGTON -- The State Department is proposing that the United States play hardball with Israel -- reducing badly needed loan guarantees -- if it proceeds with the barrier it is erecting between Israeli and Palestinian populations. With this, the State Department joins the latest Palestinian propaganda ploy -- inverting cause and effect, and making the fence the issue, rather than the terrorism that made the fence necessary.
The Israelis are not happy with the fence. They love the land as much as the Palestinians, and scarring it with any barrier is so painful to Israelis that for years they resisted the idea. The reason they finally decided to build it is that they could no longer in good conscience refrain from taking the one step that could prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from sneaking into Israel to blow up innocents.
This is not speculation. There have been nearly 100 Palestinian suicide bombings. All the terrorists came from the West Bank, where the barrier is being built. Not a single one has come from Gaza. Why? Because there already is a fence separating Gaza from Israel.
``The fence would not even be a factor if it were not for the violence in the last few years,'' writes former chief U.S. Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross. ``Truth be told, those responsible for the fence are Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.''
In America, we build stretches of fence along the Mexican border to prevent foreigners from coming in to take jobs. It takes a lot of audacity to demand that Israel stop building a fence whose purpose is to prevent foreigners from coming in to commit mass murder.
As part of the propaganda campaign against the barrier, it has been called a wall. In fact, it is a fence, with electronics on either side to prevent infiltrators. It is wall-like for only about a tenth of its length -- in just two places, both along the Trans-Israel Highway. Why? Because Palestinian gunmen had been shooting from Palestinian territory onto the highway and killing innocent Israelis.
In America, barrier walls are built along highways to keep neighbors from being inconvenienced by the noise. In Israel, barrier walls are built along highways to prevent passengers from being killed by bullets. Yet the State Department wants to sanction Israel for building a defensive barrier designed to prevent motorists from being shot while transiting inside Israel itself.
What is scandalous about the State Department joining this Palestinian propaganda campaign is that State has for months been campaigning to implement its ``road map'' for peace, published on April 30. It has three phases. We are now in Phase I.
In which phase is Israel supposed to stop work on the fence? In none. There is nothing in the road map about the fence. In any phase.
In Phase I, Israel is supposed to dismantle settlement outposts, which it has begun doing. Ultimately, Israel is required to freeze old settlements, which it is prepared to do when the Palestinians fulfill their part of Phase I. And what is that?
The road map is explicit: The Palestinians must begin ``sustained, targeted, and effective operations aimed at ... dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure.'' They have done none of this. None. A three-month truce has been declared. But Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has not just delayed cracking down on the terrorist apparatus, he has said that he will not do so at all because of fear of a Palestinian civil war.
How has the State Department reacted to this open reneging on the Palestinians' central obligation in Phase I? At first, it said it would simply give Abbas a short time to begin dismantling the terrorist infrastructure. Now it appears quite satisfied with a temporary truce that allows Hamas and the other terrorists to rearm and regroup, and that can and will be broken at the time and place of their choosing.
This is a direct contradiction of the road map. It is a contradiction of the central requirement of Palestinian compliance. It is a contradiction of the Middle East policy announced by President Bush in his June 24, 2002, speech that promised the Palestinians their own independent state -- but only if they first ceased the violence and dismantled the violence machine.
The State Department is ignoring, indeed excusing, Palestinian violation of their central obligation under Phase I of the road map. At the very same time, State is threatening Israel with sanctions over a fence that is nowhere mentioned in the road map.
This kind of amnesia and one-sidedness is not new. We have been here before. It was called Oslo. And we know how it ended.