A next step for Israel?

Posted: Apr 30, 2004 12:00 AM

     WASHINGTON -- Anti-Semitism, once just a European disease, has gone global. The outgoing prime minister of Malaysia gets a standing ovation from leaders of 57 Islamic countries when he calls upon them to rise up against the Jewish conspiracy to control the world. The French ambassador to London tells  dinner party guests that Israel is a ``s--tty little country ... why should the world be in danger of World War III because of those people?''

     Ah, those people. Kofi Annan's personal representative in Iraq now singles out the policies of the world's one Jewish state -- and only democratic state in the Middle East -- as ``the great poison in the region.''

     It is in this kind of atmosphere that Israel offers unilateral withdrawal from Gaza -- uprooting 7,000 Jews, turning over to the Palestinians 21 settlements with their extensive infrastructure intact and creating the first independent Palestinian territory in history -- and is almost universally attacked.

     Moreover, and much overlooked, Israel will also evacuate four small West Bank settlements, which creates extensive Palestinian territorial contiguity throughout the northern half of the West Bank. 

     The Arabs have variously denounced this as Israeli unilateralism, a departure from the ``road map'' and a ruse and a plot. The craven Europeans have duly followed suit. And when Tony Blair defied the mob by expressing support for the plan, he was rewarded with a letter from 52 Arabist ex-diplomats denouncing him.

     This Nuremberg atmosphere has reached the point where if Israel were to announce today that it intends to live for at least another year, the U.N. Security Council would convene on a resolution denouncing Israeli arrogance and unilateralism, and the U.S. would have to veto it. Only Britain would have the decency to abstain.

     It gets worse. The Bush administration has been attacked not just for supporting the Gaza plan, but for bolstering Israel in this risky endeavor with two assurances: First, that the Palestinian refugees are to be repatriated not to Israel but to Palestine; and second, Israel should not be required to return to its 1967 borders. Enlightened editorial opinion has denounced this as Bush upsetting 30 years of American diplomacy.

     Utter rubbish. Rejecting the so-called right of return is nothing more than opposing any final settlement that results in flooding Israel with hostile Palestinians and thus eradicating the only Jewish state on the planet. This is radical? This is something that Washington should refuse to say?

     What is new here? Four years ago at Camp David, this was a central element of the Clinton plan. As was the notion of Israel retaining a small percentage of the West Bank on which tens of thousands of Jews live.

     Moreover, the notion that Israel will not be forced to return to the 1967 armistice lines goes back 37 years -- to 1967 itself. The Johnson administration was instrumental in making sure that the governing document for a Middle East settlement -- Security Council Resolution 242 -- called for Israeli withdrawal to ``secure and recognized boundaries,'' not ``previous boundaries." And it called for Israel to withdraw ``from territories occupied'' in the 1967 war -- not ``from the territories occupied,'' as had been demanded by the Arab states, and not from "all territories occupied" as had been demanded by the Soviet Union.

     Arthur Goldberg (U.S. ambassador to the U.N.), Lord Caradon (British ambassador to the U.N.) and Eugene Rostow (U.S. Undersecretary of State) had negotiated this language with extreme care. They spent the subsequent decades explaining over and over again that the central U.N. resolution on the conflict did not require Israel to withdraw to the 1967 lines.

     Confronted with these facts, the critics say: Well, maybe this is right, but Bush should not have said this in the absence of negotiations. Good grief. This was offered to the Palestinians in negotiations -- in July 2000 at Camp David -- with even more generous Israeli concessions. Yasser Arafat said no, and then launched a bloody terror war that has killed almost a thousand Jews and maimed thousands of others.

     The fact is that there are no negotiations because under the road map -- adopted even by the U.N. -- there can be no negotiations until the Palestinians end the terror and dismantle the terror apparatus.

     To argue that neither Israel nor the U.S. can act in the absence of negotiations is to give the Palestinians, by continuing the terror, a veto over any constructive actions by the U.S. or Israel -- whether disengaging from Gaza, uprooting settlements, or establishing conditions for a final peace settlement that would ensure the survival of a Jewish state. This is an argument of singular absurdity. And a prescription for perpetual violence and perpetual stalemate.