The Price of our Education
The previous administration made two fundamental mistakes in Middle East diplomacy – assuming that both sides wanted “peace” (which is why they called it a “peace process”); and assuming that Israel could offer inducements to Arafat that would make him give up his strategic goals. Former negotiator Dennis Ross, speaking publicly, now says Arafat was never a proper partner. He has been educated.
The previous administration made two fundamental mistakes in Middle East diplomacy – assuming that both sides wanted “peace” (which is why they called it a “peace process”); and assuming that Israel could offer inducements to Arafat that would make him give up his strategic goals. Former negotiator Dennis Ross, speaking publicly, now says Arafat was never a proper partner. He has been educated. The price was nearly 2,000 lives lost and thousands more scarred; the imposition of a cruel dictatorship on the Palestinian people; the inculcation of the cult of martyrdom into Palestinian society; and a rising belief among impressionable Palestinians that they will get their state from the Jordan to the Med.
The price was high and other people paid it.
President Bush’s speech on the Middle East had many virtues, beginning with limiting the damage American intervention can cause. This is no small thing. He rightly said everyone, including Palestinians, benefit by democracy, personal liberty, free market economics and the rule of law. And that these are not entitlements – they are rewards for the hard work of responsible citizenship. Mr. Bush laid down a series of “ifs” and a series of “thens.”
• If the Palestinians have free elections, a new constitution, an independent judiciary, and economic reforms
• If the Palestinians stop incitement, conduct sustained operations against Hamas, Hizballah and Islamic Jihad, and block weapons from Iran
• If the Palestinians choose life rather than a cult venerating suicide and murder, and
• If the Palestinians do all of these things substantively, not rhetorically…
Then the Palestinians would be entitled to something to which they are NOT entitled today – concessions from Israel on the path to provisional statehood. The President gave the Palestinian people the benefit of the doubt with the assumption that Arafat holds them hostage and they would dump him under the right conditions.
But more importantly, he protected against the downside – asking Israel to take NO further risks with the lives of its citizens until AFTER the Palestinians make some crucial choices (indeed, he firmly stressed the right of Israel to defend itself). Mr. Bush’s assertion that Israel should release tax revenue, pull back to the 29 September 2000 lines and freeze settlements were formulated to FOLLOW Palestinian elections and reforms not be done in tandem, and certainly not to be offered as inducements for future Palestinian behavioral improvements.
The onus is on the Palestinians. If they rise to the occasion, the U.S. will put its weight behind provisional Palestinian statehood. If they don’t? If, once again they walk away from American generosity, they will lose again, but Israel will be little worse off for the President’s education.
The days of “risks for peace” appear to be over. And this is cause not only for relief among Israel’s friends, but also for profound appreciation for the President.