George W. Bush may be physically vacationing in Texas but the
prospect of a widening conflict in the Middle East means that he is likely
to get little rest. Unfortunately, it will be Mr. Bush's presidency, not
just his vacation plans, that will be powerfully disturbed if he responds to
its first major foreign policy crisis by compounding the mistakes previously
made in the region by American and Israeli "peace processors."
Ten months of terror inflicted by Yasser Arafat, his minions and
allies and the Israeli retaliation they have provoked appear to have brought
the Levant to the brink of a war involving not just Palestinians and Jews
but other Arab states, as well.
Ominously, the Sunday Times of London reported on August 12th that
the Egyptian government is considering moving its 3rd Armored Army into the
Sinai. Such an action could only be seen as a threat to Israel, made all
the more serious because the infusion of some $45 billion in front-line
American military equipment and training has substantially reduced -- if not
eliminated -- the qualitative edge the Jewish State has traditionally
enjoyed over its one-time foe's quantitatively larger forces.
At the same time, Israel's virulent enemies -- like Hezbollah in
Lebanon, the Ba'athist ruling clique in Syria, Saddam Hussein in Iraq and
the still-unmoderated mullahs in charge of Iranian foreign and security
policy -- appear to be spoiling for a fight. They are evidently of a mind
with not only Hamas and Islamic Jihad but the Palestinian leadership under
Yasser Arafat, as well: The time has come to complete the job of destroying
the State of Israel.
Of course, many of those American and Israeli "peace processors" --
who did so much with their misplaced confidence in their "partner,"Arafat,
and his commitment to coexistence with Israel to contribute to the present
crisis -- refuse to see this reality. The Bush Administration has lately
joined them in insisting that Israel enter into further negotiations in
order to arrange new cease-fire or other agreements aimed at defusing the
crisis between the Palestinians and Israelis.
It is, therefore, a most timely moment to consider the latest in a
series of pained renunciations by erstwhile champions of the so-called Oslo
peace process. In an article published recently in the popular Israeli
newspaper Ma'ariv (a translation of which was helpfully circulated on August
12 by the Middle East Media Research Institute), a long-time member of the
peace camp, Amnon Dankner, declares Oslo to have been nothing less than "the
trap of one of the biggest scams in history."
Dankner says he now realizes that Arafat signed the Oslo accords
"not in order to bring a resolution of two nations to two peoples, but in
order to use this platform as a stage for an all out and prolonged struggle
which will eventually bring Israel to a point of attrition, the breakdown of
its society, and a Palestinian occupation of all the territory between the
Jordan [River] and the Mediterranean."
In his Ma'ariv article, Dankner reserves some of his harshest
criticism, however, for Israeli leaders of the peace movement. He notes
ruefully that "When there were severe statements [coming from] the
Palestinian side, which testified [to] the scam -- including statements by
Arafat -- the Oslo supporters either ignored them or downplayed their
significance, and by doing so actively contributed to the scam."
Dankner damningly speculates that this behavior was either due to
incompetence or malfeasance. "Now it is either one of two things: Either
Shimon Peres and his partners...were dragged into [asserting that Oslo would
not result in the establishment of a dangerous Palestinian state] by the
developments in the regional and international reality, and thus their
calculations at the beginning of the process were proven wrong, and that
they are lousy politicians; or that deep inside they knew right from the
beginning...that there is no escape from this consequence, in which case one
could say that they intentionally and maliciously deceived the Israeli
public opinion and sold it a bitter pill with a sweet and deceitful
Dankner concludes with a grim net assessment: "It is fair to say
that Oslo brought us to the brink of war rather than towards peace, and
severely worsened our security, political, and international position....The
question that everyone must ask themselves today is: 'If you could return
back in a time machine to 1993, would you support the Oslo agreement knowing
what you know today?' Only a reminder: In 1993, the Intifada was wearing
down almost to a point of a halt, Arafat was an international outcast,
boycotted in the Arab world, and his power and influence hit an all time low
due to his support of Saddam Hussein, and he was in Tunis, subject to be
transferred, with his headquarters, to Yemen. No one has yet heard of
suicide bombings, and there are no regular armed Palestinian forces at a
walking distance from Israeli towns and military bases. This was the
situation [as of 1993]."
As President Bush considers his options, he must be mindful of the
reality described so accurately, if painfully, by Amnon Dankner. He risks
perpetuating, and greatly exacerbating, the dangers associated with "one of
the biggest scams in history" if he allows his spokesmen to continue to
pretend that Arafat is a man of peace.
Worse yet, if the Bush Administration persists in treating with
moral equivalence terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians and Israel's
generally restrained defensive responses to such actions -- the ineluctable
effect of equally condemning these two very different things by
characterizing them as part of "the cycle of violence" -- it will convey a
portentous impression: The United States is more interested in being an
"honest broker" than Israel's ally. Taken together with the Jewish State's
less defensible borders and its more tenuous security situation that are
Oslo's principal legacy, Arab nations may be tempted once again to try the
war option that has been effectively foreclosed since 1973. Such a step
would make the "trap" of which Mr. Dankner speaks a mortal one for Israel,
and a very costly one for the United States.