"This nation will do what it takes to defend that which it holds dear." The words spoken Monday could have come from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. They didn't. They came from President Bush, speaking at a rally in Tennessee.
But the president's words make it all the more puzzling why he now insists that Israel cannot do the same to defend herself.
When it comes to attacks on the United States, President Bush reiterated his commitment to "find the enemy wherever they may hide" and "defend freedom, no matter what the costs." Yet, he tells the Israelis that they cannot hunt down terrorists in the West Bank and that the cost of defending their freedom may well be U.S. support. It is a double standard unworthy of the president and inimical to the interests of the United States.
So far, the Israeli Defense Forces have captured tons of weapons in the West Bank, including 60 pounds of high explosives and some 50 rocket-propelled grenades, and they discovered nearly a dozen weapons and explosives labs -- some of which were seized within the compounds of the Palestinian Authority. The IDF have also intercepted five car bombs -- that is five more suicide missions that have been thwarted and dozens of lives saved. And the IDF have arrested some 500 Palestinians wanted for attacks on Israelis.
We should be applauding the Israelis, not demanding they retreat before they have accomplished their objectives.
The administration reportedly decided to pressure Israel when demonstrators in Egypt and elsewhere began anti-American protests. The administration's fear is that we will lose support in the Arab world for our war on terrorism.
But the "Arab street" has never backed our fight -- indeed a few months ago tens of thousands of Muslims took to the streets in the Arab world and elsewhere to protest our military action against Afghanistan. And they were joined by thousands of others, including European and American "peace activists" who protested when stray American bombs killed innocent Afghan civilians.
Yet we didn't buckle under the criticism. Instead, we chose to stay and fight. And when innocent Afghans died -- and dozens, if not hundreds did -- we, rightly, blamed the Taliban and al Qaeda for inflicting such misery on Afghanistan.
Innocent people are dying in the West Bank as well. But Yasser Arafat and the terrorists he harbors are the ones who are morally culpable for these deaths, just as the Taliban and al Qaeda were in Afghanistan. Arafat and the Palestinians could have peace -- and a state -- anytime they choose. But they would rather sacrifice their own young to blow up Israelis in the insane hope that they will one day eliminate the Jewish state.
The president and those in his administration seem to believe that Israel should negotiate its way to peace. But it is impossible to negotiate with those who have consistently violated every agreement they've ever signed -- as Yasser Arafat has. To insist that the Israelis withdraw their troops so that they can once again sit down with a man who has yet to live up to his previous commitments is an invitation to further violence against innocent civilians. Peace will only come when the terrorists are defeated.
If President Bush succeeds in getting the Israelis to pull out of the West Bank before they have completed their mission, it will embolden terrorists everywhere. And we may well pay the price in the United States, as well as Israel.
How can we hope to fight a global war on terrorism when we give a pass to Palestinian terrorists? In the 18 months since the Palestinians launched their latest bloody intifada against Israel, more than 400 Israelis have died. On a per capita basis, that is more than six times the equivalent loss of lives sustained in the World Trade Center attack. How many more must die before President Bush's words about doing "whatever it takes to defend that which we hold dear," "to find the enemy wherever they may hide," and "to defend freedom, no matter what the costs" apply to Israel, as well as the United States?