Jewish World Review May 22, 2003/ 20 Iyar, 5763
Ditches and detours on the road to peace
No greater hate hath he who dresses in the sacred clothes of his enemy.
The latest terrorism provoked Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to cancel his trip to Washington. He had planned to discuss with George W. Bush his reservations about the famous "road map," which can more accurately be described as a guide to a dead end. It might have worked when an ass was the dominant mode of travel in the Middle East, but not today, when a suicide bomber boards a bus to take him (with a transfer) to paradise.
The road map creates a moral equivalency between Israelis and Palestinians, requiring simultaneous concessions. Israel can't afford to make concessions until the Palestinians quit killing Jews. You don't have to be Jewish to see the rocks, ditches and detours that slow the trip to peace. Christian conservatives and Jews in this country have had an uneven relationship, historically, but they're together on this one.
Gary Bauer, the chairman of the advocacy group American Values, sent a letter the other day to the president signed by more than 20 fellow Christians arguing that the road map in its present form leads to disaster and urged the Bush administration to return to the drawing board. The letter is particularly significant because it reflects the convictions of the president's large Christian conservative constituency, who aren't afraid to put their clout behind those convictions.
The road map does not take into account the lies fed to Palestinians, beginning with the children, that sound much like Nazi propaganda in Germany in the 1930s. Such lies invariably nurture the perverse mentality of a suicide bomber. Nor does it do anything to diminish the myth that Palestinians must get the "right of return" to the land that is now Israel.
Anyone who can count knows that if the millions of Palestinian refugees were to return to Israel proper, Israel would no longer be a Jewish state. Although many of the houses the refugees left behind in 1948 no longer exist, older residents in the camps brandish their door keys as totems and tell their children that they will live - or die - trying to unlock the doors. It's a vain hope, but a powerful one, feeding anger and hatred in the young.
The Palestinian problem is used by Arab countries as a dagger (and a bomb) aimed at Israel's heart, which the road map ignores. By refusing to admit Israel's right to exist, Arab nations treat Israel as a pariah nation, with a lot of help from their friends at the United Nations.
"Are we to go on approving, by our silence, a situation wherein a true pariah state like Libya can serve a term as chairman of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights while democratic Israel is refused the right to participate in multilateral affairs?" asks Abraham Sofaer in Commentary magazine.
The question is not academic. Mr. Sofaer was the principal negotiator of the 1989 accord that returned lands lost by Egypt in the Six-Day War. Any road map, he insists, must require the United States to hold the international community to a standard of behavior that includes Israel in the economic and political nexus of "normalization." Conviction must be fused with clout.
There is ample precedent. When it became clear that the United Nations conference on human rights in Durban two years ago would become a sounding board for international anti-Semitism, Secretary of State Colin Powell refused to attend, and the United States withdrew its delegation. Without American support, the conference was ineffectual, reduced to sound and fury signifying nothing but hate.
A small group of Jews and Arabs meet monthly in a Middle Eastern restaurant in downtown Washington, which they describe as The Peace Café. Over platters of hummus and dates, they trade personal stories "to create layers of understanding."
At a recent gathering, David Shipler, author of "Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land," and no particular fan of Ariel Sharon, suggested that the prime minister, like Richard Nixon, is a pragmatist who might be able to bring peace to Israel in the way that Nixon opened up Red China.
This is an interesting proposition, and maybe a bit of a reach. But if the prime minister does that, he will need a different road map from the one our president has unfolded for him. There can't be any room on the road to peace for a killer in a prayer shawl and skullcap.
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