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Jewish World Review / March 15, 1998 / 17 Adar, 5758

Cal Thomas

Cal Thomas An imposed 'settlement' settles nothing

THE GOVERNMENT OF Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is so concerned about what it regards as credible reports of a peace settlement imposed by the United States, it dispatched the prime minister's director of communications, David Bar-Ilan, to Washington the other day to talk to a few journalists, Jewish-American community leaders and members of Congress.

"The Clinton administration is threatening to impose a so-called peace settlement on Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA)," Bar-Ilan told me. "If Israel doesn't make concessions (America) thinks it should make, (it will tell Israel) to take it or leave it."

The plan, according to Bar-Ilan, would force Israel into larger withdrawals than it has currently offered, which he says would severely threaten the nation's security. Israel's concerns about the ultimate objectives of the PA and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) have been heightened in recent weeks because of street demonstrations by Palestinians calling for genocide against Israelis. Bar-Ilan says these demonstrations were organized by Fatah, a terrorist group closely associated with PLO leader Yasser Arafat.

There are more reasons to be concerned about such an imposed settlement and the negative impact it would have on Israel and on peace. Senior Israeli security sources say the PA was behind the attempted smuggling of dozens of weapons into the country, but that it was foiled by the Israeli army near the northern part of the Dead Sea. It is said to be the largest case of weapons smuggling onto Israeli territory in many years. The man arrested was said not to be a member of a terrorist organization. But the security source said, "Only the Palestinian Authority has the ability, the infrastructure and the money to carry out an operation of this magnitude, and all signs point to them as being behind the smuggling."

The weapons seized from two boats included 60 Kalashnikov rifles, one M-16, seven hunting rifles, 39 pistols and a large amount of ammunition. For what purpose would such weapons be used? Security sources believe they were earmarked for a possible armed conflict with Israel should peace negotiations remain frozen.

And why shouldn't talks remain frozen if the word has gone forth from the State Department that the PA doesn't have to seriously negotiate with Israel, but can hold out and have U.S. peace envoy Dennis Ross, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and others in the State Department impose a settlement that will distinctly benefit the PA?

Then there is the question of Palestinian terrorists who have killed nine Americans (as well as quite a few Israelis) since the Oslo accords were signed in 1993. Those accords require Arafat to hand over the suspects to Israel (for dead Israelis) and to the United States (for dead Americans). So far, Arafat has not released a single one, and some are now employed as members of the Palestinian police force. An imposed settlement would likely ensure they would never be brought to justice.

President Clinton and Secretary Albright recently told the Conference of Major American Jewish Organizations that ``United States policy in regard to terrorists that kill Americans is that you can run, but you can't hide.'' Apparently those Palestinian terrorists who have killed Americans don't have to run because the State Department is treating them differently from the Pakistani man who killed employees of the CIA. He was hunted down in Pakistan and brought back to America for trial. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), chairman of the subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian affairs, is scheduled to hold a hearing on the disparity between administration words and deeds on March 11.

Ninety-eight percent of Palestinians now live under Palestinian rule with all of the trappings, if not yet all of the authority, of independence. They have their own police, their own army and a form of government that may not be all they want but is better than what they've had. All Israel wants is a demonstration that its concessions will be matched by promise keeping and good will from the other side. Instead, Israel sees outrageous demonstrations in the streets, the burning of Israeli and American flags, and Palestinian calls for Saddam Hussein to bomb Israel. Are these the words and deeds of people who seek a harmonious relationship with their neighbors?

Imposing a settlement on Israel is the stuff of dictatorship. It isn't how a free nation is supposed to behave. The United States should support democracy, not undermine it. It should be encouraging the parties to negotiate a bottom-up settlement and not try to impose one from the top-down.


3/13/98: David Brock's Turnabout

©1998, Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Inc.