Jewish World Review June 20, 2002/ 10 Tamuz, 5762

Charles Krauthammer

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The mendacity that pollutes Middle Eastern discourse, or,: How to guarantee more violence | Whenever a massacre occurs in Israel, Palestinian spokesmen rush out to say: "Yes, this is terrible, but this is what happens when you have a people with no hope for an end to the occupation." Apologists in the West invariably echo this exculpation/explanation.

Of all the mendacity that pollutes Middle Eastern discourse, this one is the worst. It assumes that the listener is not only stupid but amnestic. Two years ago at the Camp David summit, in the presence of the president of the United States, the Palestinians were offered an end to the occupation--a total end, a final end--by the prime minister of Israel. They said no. They said no because in return, they were asked to make peace.

Remember? The mantra thrown at the Israelis for decades was "land for peace." It turns out Arafat wanted the land, but at Camp David, as always, he refused to make peace. The reason innocents are dying every day is not because of the occupation, but because the Palestinians believe they can get (as Hezbollah got in Lebanon) land without peace.

And why should they not believe it? The State Department wants to give them exactly that. The way out of the Middle East morass, Colin Powell has urged the president, is to give the Palestinians a "light at the end of the tunnel" by giving them their own "interim" or "provisional" Palestinian state--even as the massacres continue, like the blowing to bits of 26 Jerusalemites in two consecutive suicide bombings this week.

This rewarding of terrorism is not just a moral scandal. It is disastrous diplomacy. What does this provisional state say to the Palestinians? You can reject the state you were offered two years ago, start a war, murder daily, and then be re-offered a state--this time without even having to be asked to make peace.

For an American foreign policy whose major objective is stability and nonviolence (if for no other reason than to give us freedom of action elsewhere in the region to fight terrorism), one could not devise a worse policy. If two years of blood-letting gives the Palestinians an interim state--without even a simple cease-fire, let alone a real peace--what possible disincentive do they have to continue the violence?

Statehood before peace is guaranteed to increase the violence. After all, what does "provisional statehood" mean? There has never been a "provisional state." Powell will have to make the concept up as he goes along. But if statehood means anything, it means three things:

1. Territorial inviolability. Today terrorism is reduced (Israel stops 90 percent of planned attacks) because the Israeli army goes into Palestinian territories to seize and stop terrorists. After statehood, this becomes an invasion of another country. The terrorists will now have sanctuary. Every time Israel pursues them, the Security Council will be called into emergency session and America will be censured unless it condemns this Israeli "invasion." The net effect will be more terrorism and increased resentment of American diplomacy.

2. Arms. The basic premise of American policy for 25 years has been that the only way to assure peace is to have a demilitarized Palestinian entity. Sure, in offering "provisional statehood" the United States will insist on limits to Palestine's buildup of weapons. These limits will be broken as surely as were the limits on the Palestinian "police" that were in the Oslo accords. But it will be worse. Once you have statehood, the Palestinians will say that every self-respecting state has the right to arm itself as it wishes. Why not Palestine? The West Bank will bristle not just with the weapons of guerrilla war (machine guns and car bombs), but the weapons of regional war: Katyusha rockets and anti-aircraft missiles. What do you think happens when civilian planes trying to land at Ben Gurion Airport come under fire from such an armed Palestinian state?

3. Alliances. A basic attribute of statehood is the right to contract alliances. Even before statehood, Arafat secretly allied himself with Iran and Hezbollah. With statehood, he will be able to do so openly. And what do we do when he declares alliance with Syria or Iraq and invites their tank armies into the West Bank to protect Palestine from Israeli "aggression"?

Provisional statehood is folly. For the United States to offer it constitutes a moral and strategic collapse. It is a way to give the Palestinians their goals without even the pretense of asking them to put down the gun.

Statehood for the Palestinians is a foregone conclusion. The only question today is whether they get it while they continue to massacre Jews or only after they have abjured massacres. Land for peace. Remember?

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© 2002, Washington Post Writers' Group