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Jewish World Review May 2, 2002 / 20 Iyar, 5762

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.

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Careful what we wish for | President Bush's success on Sunday in brokering a deal to spring Yasser Arafat from his Israeli-imposed house-arrest in Ramallah calls to mind a cautionary adage: Be careful what you wish for. Like the "peace process" this step is intended to resuscitate, Mr. Arafat's release is more likely to lead to conditions that will conduce to another Arab-Israeli war than it is to prevent a renewal of such hostilities.

Think about it. During his monthlong incarceration, Mr. Arafat has become the darling of radical Palestinians who had previously feared he was willing to sell out their dream of liberating all of "Palestine" (namely the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as pre-1967 Israel).

Of course, this suspicion had more to do with jockeying for power within Palestinian ranks than it did with Mr. Arafat's real ambitions. After all, Mr. Arafat has at every turn conveyed his true intentions through speeches given in Arabic, repeating his determination to secure the "phased" destruction of Israel, and via the use of symbols (such as attending funerals for terrorists he calls "martyrs" and maps of the region showing no Israel, only a state called "Palestine").

It is folly to believe that, once he has been freed again to move about the Palestinian Authority-controlled areas, he will use his political rehabilitation to wage a campaign for reconciliation and peaceful coexistence with Israel. It is all well and good for President Bush to announce that "[Arafatīs] responsibility is to renounce, to help detect and stop terrorist killings. We're going to continue to hold people accountable for results." Actually, Mr. Arafat and his fellow terrorists are likely to conclude that - far from being held accountable, they will again be rewarded for intransigence and violence.

Other things we are "wishing for" seem no more likely to have the intended effect. For example, take the Bush administration's willingness to accede to pressure from Mr. Arafat and his sympathizers at the U.N., in Europe and among the Arabs to place "monitors" on the ground between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

This idea has received a fresh impetus from Mr. Arafat's recent "get-out-of-jail-free" deal: American and British monitors are now going to be responsible for "supervising" the incarceration of terrorists Mr. Arafat had been protecting in his Ramallah compound until at last, under the physical pressure of Israel's siege, he decided to have them "tried" and convicted by a Palestinian tribunal.

What happens if, as in the past, a mob (perhaps incited by Mr. Arafat or one of his terrorist factions or allies) decides to free those whose murder of an Israeli Cabinet officer met with widespread approval among Palestinians? Will more monitors be sent in, with armed forces to protect them? Or will that simply be the result when, citing the precedent set by the foreign jailers, the "international community" predictably intensifies its insistence that such monitors be inserted between the Palestinians and Israelis to prevent further violence?

Then there is the question of the negotiations whose resumption the Bush administration has been so insistently seeking. Can any good come of the much-hoped-for implementation of the "Mitchell plan" and the "Tenet work plan," or even a renewed Oslo "peace process"? Only by making several heroic assumptions is there any reason to believe these diplomatic initiatives will bear other than more poisonous fruit: Mr. Arafat must now want a genuine and durable peace with a secure Israel; Mr. Arafat must be willing violently to suppress those Palestinians who do not want such a peace; and the rest of the Arab world must support him in doing so. Today, nearly 10 years after the Oslo process began based on these same assumptions, there is no evidence that any - let alone all - of them apply.

Finally, there is the matter of the "vision" President Bush has embraced of a state of Palestine. It is hard to see, under present and prospective circumstances, how this entity can possibly emerge as a viable, peaceable state coexisting with the Jewish State next door. Instead, what we are wishing for appears destined to become another corruptly and despotically misruled, radicalized Arab state governed by an elite spoiling for revenge and territorial expansion and convinced that violence will help them achieve both.

It is tragically ironic that such a "Palestine" will pose a threat not only to Israel but to Jordan. After all, Jordan is not only an Arab state but a Palestinian one; the vast majority of its population is made up not of Hashemites but Palestinians. It is predictable that at some point, if Mr. Bush's vision is realized, an effort will be made to forge a single nation to include all the people of "Palestine" (doubtless appealing as well to Israel's Arab citizens).

In this fashion, we can expect to see an Arab country - one that is currently at peace with Israel and economically relatively viable - destabilized and possibly destroyed. If, in the process, Jordan's well-equipped and trained army falls into the hands of Islamists determined to liquidate Israel, the Jewish State might find itself once again facing an existential threat from Arab armies.

Some will say these grim forecasts are unduly pessimistic. Unfortunately, they are informed by hard experience with Yasser Arafat, the terrorists with whom he is closely associated and his unwavering ambition - and that of many other Arabs - to "liberate" all of Palestine. Neither Israel's interests nor those of the United States will be served by recklessly indulging in the diplomatic equivalent of what Samuel Johnson once said of second marriages - "the triumph of hope over experience."

JWR contributor Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. heads the Center for Security Policy. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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02/12/02: Post-mortem on 'Pearl Harbor II'
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01/29/02: A challenge for the history books
01/22/02: Who pulled the plug on the Chinese 'bugs'?
01/15/02: No 'need to know'
01/08/02: Sentenced to de-nuclearize?
12/18/01: Missile defense mismanagement?
12/11/01: Is the Cold War 'over'?
12/04/01: A moment for truth
11/29/01: Send in the marines -- with the planes they need
11/27/01: 'Now Hear This': Does the President Mean What He Says?
11/20/01: Mideast 'vision thing'
11/13/01: The leitmotif of the next three days
11/06/01: Bush's Reykjavik Moment
10/30/01: Say it ain't true, 'W.
10/23/01: Getting history, and the future, right
10/16/01: Farewell to arms control
10/05/01: A time to choose
09/25/01: Don't drink the 'lemonade'
09/11/01: Sudan envoy an exercise in futility?
09/05/01: Strategy of a thousand cuts
08/28/01: Rummy's back
08/21/01: Prepare for 'two wars'
08/14/01: Why does the Bush Administration make a moral equivalence between terrorist attacks and Israel's restrained defensive responses?
08/07/01: A New bipartisanship in security policy?
07/31/01: Don't go there
07/17/01: The 'end of the beginning'
07/10/01: Testing President Bush
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05/23/01: Pearl Harbor, all over again
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05/08/01: The real debate about missile defense
04/24/01: Sell aegis ships to Taiwan
04/17/01: The 'hi-tech for China' bill
04/10/01: Deal on China's hostages -- then what?
04/03/01: Defense fire sale redux
03/28/01: The defense we need
03/21/01: Critical mass
03/13/01: The Bush doctrine
03/08/01: Self-Deterred from Defending America
02/27/01: Truth and consequences for Saddam
02/21/01: Defense fire sale
02/13/01: Dubya's Marshall Plan
02/05/01: Doing the right thing on an 'Arab-Arab dispute'
01/30/01: The missile defense decision
01/23/01: The Osprey as Phoenix
01/17/01: Clinton's Parting Shot at Religious Freedom
01/09/01: Wake-up call on space
01/02/01: Secretary Rumsfeld
12/27/00: Redefining our Ukraine policy
12/19/00: Deploy missile defense now
12/12/00: Sabotaging space power
12/05/00: Preempting Bush
11/28/00: What Clinton hath wrought
11/21/00: HE'S BAAAACK
11/14/00: The world won't wait

© 2001, Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.