Jewish World Review June 18, 2003 / 18 Sivan, 5763

Edward I. Koch

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Keep American troops out of Israel | Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has proposed that American troops, with or without the assistance of United Nations forces, patrol the border between Israel and the West Bank and Gaza.

This is a terrible idea, which Israel has rightly rejected over the years, not wanting to entrust its security to others or be responsible for the death of a single American soldier.

Such deaths would almost certainly occur as the result of terrorist acts, just as they have in Iraq where 47 American soldiers have been killed since President George W. Bush said hostilities had ceased.

If American forces are used in Israel, they would never take on the suicide bombers, nor should they. Their sole function would be to prevent Israeli reprisals to terrorist attacks by Hamas and others. This could cause misunderstandings and perhaps even combat between Americans and Israelis, to th

e delight of the Palestinians. Hamas shows no signs of abandoning its terror campaign against Israelis. This week, Hamas rejected the Egyptian government's effort to end Hamas' policy of murdering Israeli soldiers and civilians. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon responded by stating that "As long as there is terror, it will not be possible to make progress." President Bush appears to understand and accept that conclusion. He said, "The free world and those who love freedom and peace must deal harshly with Hamas and the killers."

The goal of Hamas, expressed by its leader, Abdel Aziz Rantisi, is summed up by his statement, "I am telling Sharon and all the Israeli murderers, you don't have any security unless you leave the country. There will be no single Jew in Palestine. We will fight them with all the power that we have." Rantisi's vision of a future without Jews is no different than Adolf Hitler's intent on making Europe judenrein.

Journalists, particularly on BBC TV news programs, reported the Palestinian accusation that while the world was distracted by the war, Israel would expel Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank. Did the expulsions happen? No.

Suppose the positions had been reversed. Does anyone doubt that the extremists led by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade, armed wing of Arafat's Fatah party, would have expelled the Jews they didn't murder from all of Israel? Would the neighboring Arab leaders -- King Abdullah of Jordan, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, President Bashar Assad of Syria and President Lahoud of Lebanon -- have denounced the Palestinian actions? I doubt it. Would the French have sent troops to prevent it? I doubt it.

Look at what Arab governments did when they had the power to impose their will on dissenting Arabs they believed were threats to them.

In the Syrian city of Hama, home to opponents to the regime of former dictator Hafez al-Assad, an estimated 10,000 men, women and children were put to death by Assad's forces and the city razed to the ground. Under King Hussein's reign in Jordan, in an action referred to by the PLO as "Black September," the PLO was driven out of Jordan, and 5,000 of its members were killed. In Iraq, Saddam Hussein murdered 5,000 Iraqi Kurds using poison gas which left thousands more crippled for life.

Regardless of what some Palestinian leaders now say about a two-state solution, you can be sure that the threat to Israel's existence will persist. Palestinians and their supporters in the 22 other Arab states are enraged when Israel is referred to as a Jewish state. To his credit, President Bush has used that description when referring to Israel. The majority of Palestinians, and millions of Arabs in other countries, want Israel replaced with a single Muslim state comprised of all of historic Palestine.

Immediately after President Bush, Prime Minister Sharon, Prime Minister Abbas and King Abdullah met in Aqaba, Jordan, four Israeli soldiers were killed in Gaza with Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade jointly taking credit. When Israel responded by targeting Abdel Rantisi, and regrettably only wounding him, denunciations of Sharon were made around the world. The complaints were that he should have waited and given Abbas an opportunity to deal with Hamas and the other terrorist organizations, even though Abbas had said he would not use force against his fellow Palestinians to stop their terrorist acts.

How long should he have waited? A week? A month? We can debate whether reprisals by the Israeli army have kept terrorist incidents down. But, it is not unreasonable to believe that allowing Hamas and others to celebrate their murderous deeds with impunity only encourages more terrorist acts.

Prime Minister Sharon has agreed that if the violence and terrorism end, the targeting of those who engaged in past acts of terror and planning new attacks will likewise cease. It will then be up to the negotiators to deal with the issue of how best to treat perpetrators of terrorist acts, as they delve into such other thorny issues as the right of return, Jerusalem, demilitarization of the Palestinian state, and final borders. Sending U.S. troops to the region will not advance the cause of peace. Only confidence-building actions by the two parties to the conflict, supported by the U.S. and the rest of the world, particularly the Arab world, can.

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JWR contributor Edward I. Koch, the former mayor of New York, can be heard on Bloomberg Radio (WBBR 1130 AM) every Saturday from 9-10 am. Comment by clicking here.

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© 2002, Edward I. Koch