(Washington, D.C.): President Bush is getting plenty of unsolicited advice these days about the metastasizing situation in the Middle East. All-too-unrepentant peace processors, like Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk (who have been, fortunately, involuntarily separated from government service by last Fall’s election) are urging Mr. Bush to pick up where they left off — pushing Israel for more concessions pursuant to one or another mindless agreement (e.g., the so-called “Tenet cease-fire plan” and the “Mitchell Commission” program for a cooling-off period and new negotiations) made with Palestinians who refuse to abide by any they have made to date.
In today’s Washington Post, a columnist and editor for Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria, endorses the Solomonic proposal of yet another discredited peace processor, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak: Build walls to separate the Israelis from the Palestinians, creating for the latter a de facto state and relocating 30,000 Jews from settlements that would be on the wrong side of the wall. Unexplained are Mr. Zakaria’s notions for how Israel would achieve what he calls “defensible borders” once it surrenders the West Bank, or how Israel would assure under such an arrangement its ability freely to exercise sovereign control over the airspace, waters and territory of a Palestinian state. There is no getting around the fact that the Jewish State cannot live, perhaps literally, without such control.
Perhaps most strikingly, Mr. Zakaria fails to elucidate just how the Jews will be able to avoid the demographic and security problems associated with a large Israeli-Arab community that would be left on Israel’s side of the wall. The Newsweek man acknowledges that this population has become increasingly radicalized but does not explain what would happen when (not if) Israel’s Arabs volunteer, or are euchred by their Palestinian brothers on the other side, to act as a fifth column inside the Jewish State so as to accomplish their shared objective: the “liberation” of all of “Palestine,” including pre-1967 Israel.
President Bush will find far more sound advice in the lead editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal. This essay is rooted in a recognition that the greatest danger of a wider war in the Middle East would arise from Arab perceptions that there is exploitable “daylight” between the United States and Israel. By demonstrating that not to be the case — by publicly supporting Israel’s preemptive attacks on terrorist leaders; by eschewing moral equivalence between the Israelis and those bent on attacking them; and by declining to bring U.S. pressure to bear on Israel to make further, unwarranted and dangerous concessions — President Bush can make the most constructive possible contribution to regional stability and relative peace in the Middle East.
The Wall Street Journal, 10 August 2001
We’ll get to the latest Palestinian massacre of Israeli civilians in a moment, but first a lesson in historical context. One of the most memorable stories Ariel Sharon tells is of the visit he made to Washington in 1982 on the eve of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. Then Defense Minister, Mr. Sharon met with the American Secretary of State, General Alexander Haig, and his Middle East envoy, Ambassador Habib. He alerted them to the fact that he was going to respond to the terror being launched from Lebanon. As Mr. Sharon later recounted the incident in his memoir “Warrior,” the State Department objected, warning that there would have to be an “internationally recognized provocation.”
“How many Jews have to be killed for it to be a clear provocation?” Mr. Sharon asked. “One Jew? Two Jews? Five? Six?”
Mr. Haig nonetheless conveyed his objections in blunt terms. When Mr. Sharon had gone back to Israel, Mr. Haig went over his head, sending to Prime Minister Menachem Begin a letter urging Israel to exercise “complete restraint.” Begin sent a reply to be remembered.
“Mr. Secretary,” he wrote, “the man has not been born who will ever obtain from me consent to let Jews be killed by a bloodthirsty enemy.”
We can imagine that Menachem Begin’s example has been very much in Mr. Sharon’s mind as he has huddled with his inner cabinet in the wake of yesterday’s bombing by Palestinian Arab terrorists. Like most of the Palestinian attacks, the latest specifically targeted civilians. The bomber struck a pizza parlor filled with families. It was not a military headquarters, nor a terrorist cell. The dead, totaling at least 15, included six babies. They were not collateral damage. They were the targets the Palestinians were aiming for.
The Bush White House’s first reaction to this event was to call for an end to “the cycle of violence,” by now a standard leftwing formulation of events in the Mideast. By late afternoon, Mr. Bush from Texas revised that position to at least put the onus on Yasser Arafat. That said, a “senior official” from his State Department was on the late wires insisting that the Israelis “must avoid reacting in a way that extends the cycle of violence.” From Al Haig to now, little changes in such precincts.
A few weeks ago, Mr. Bush sent his director of central intelligence, George Tenet, to broker a cease-fire. That included a commitment on the part of Yasser Arafat to arrest some 100 named operatives of Islamic Jihad and Hamas, among others. Arafat failed utterly to carry out his commitment, and the results were demonstrated yesterday. In his statement, Mr. Bush called on Arafat to comply with the Tenet plan. Well, it looks just a little late now.
In recent weeks, Mr. Bush has been swarmed by advocates of the peace process, whose argument can be summed up thusly: The peace process failed. We were wrong. Therefore, what you should do now is resume the peace process. To which we would say that if any kind of code of military honor obtained in diplomacy and journalism, the Martin Indyks and Thomas Friedmans of the world would have long since resigned and retired to the golf course. Their logic would be suicidal for Israel.
Israel should not be asked to stand down any further, least of all by its most constant ally. What Mr. Bush and the Administration need to say, and Congress will be behind them, is that they recognize that no civilized nation can stand down while these kinds of barbaric attacks are launched against its civilian population week after week.
No one is opposing peace between the Palestinian Arab people and the Israelis in the Middle East. The Israelis want peace as much as anyone else. The Palestinian population is also filled with decent, educated people who also yearn for peace. The Palestinians are not represented by Yasser Arafat and the other terror chiefs who claim to act in their name but who rule as by internal terror against Palestinians. These tyrants have to be driven out.
What Mr. Bush and the Administration can do now is assist the Israelis, with all the human and technical means available, in targeting those who are plotting to perpetrate more bombings of civilians. These are not “assassinations.” They are engagements in a war that is well underway and in which there is a right side and a wrong. Vice President Cheney understands this. Senator Biden understands it. The vast swatch of Americans in between those political poles understands. As Menachem Begin instinctively understood, neither Prime Minister Sharon nor President Bush has any need to waver.