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Jewish World Review Nov. 12, 2001 / 26 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762

Jonathan Tobin

Jonathan Tobin
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In whose interests?

Washington's appeasement of the Arabs will harm America more than Israel -- AMERICANS who long for some retribution against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 terror attacks are being counseled to by our leaders to have patience. We're going to need it.

Back in September, President Bush told Congress and the American people that our nation was about to go to war against all terrorists everywhere. It was an inspiring message, and justly earned him plaudits from across the political spectrum.

But the truth is, that goal was far more ambitious in its scope than anything we seem capable of achieving in the long run. The overthrow of Osama bin Laden's odious Afghan hosts is a worthy goal, even if it doesn't address terror regimes in Iraq and Syria. But even that very limited objective is itself now in question.

With military victory a remote possibility, Washington seeks to use diplomacy to build an alliance against terrorism. The key to this coalition seems to be keeping Israel under wraps. From the point of view of the coalition builders, any mention of Israel is liable to upset their "friends" in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and elsewhere in the Arab world.

Kowtowing to the whims of these "allies" has become a full-time job for Secretary of State Colin Powell. Though American forces may not stop the bombing of Taliban targets for the duration of the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, the State Department has compensated for this by roughing up Israel regularly. Friends of Israel have protested against the double standard by which America is allowed to bomb another country to get at terrorists, yet Israel cannot pursue the murderers of its citizens.

The answer to these complaints has been official scorn. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and State Department mouthpiece Richard Boucher have gone out of their way to dismiss comparisons between Islamic terrorists who kill Americans and those who murder Israelis.

Elsewhere, these justified complaints have been met with the old standby of Israel-bashers. The tired canard that friends of Israel are demonstrating "dual loyalty" has been trotted out in some parts of the Internet and even in a few places in the mainstream media.

The more dignified version of that vile argument is to claim that those protesting the unequal treatment of Israel are showing more concern for Israel's interests than those of the United States.

As was the case when Iraq sent Scud missiles against Israel in response to the American offensive in the Persian Gulf war, Israel's job under the current circumstances appears to be to just sit back and watch its citizens being slaughtered by Palestinian terrorists.

The unreasonable nature of such demands notwithstanding, Israel actually has been doing everything it can to quietly help the United States with intelligence. It has also been sending Foreign Minister Shimon Peres to meetings with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat anytime the old terrorist feels like posing for grip and grins. The problem is, Arafat continues to use this time to unleash terrorism - both via Palestinian Authority forces, and by giving Islamic Jihad and Hamas a green light for their own depredations.

In response to this problem, Washington sources say the Bush administration has debated launching a diplomatic initiative on the standoff between Israel and the Palestinians.


Bush administration officials came into office scoffing at former President Clinton's end-of-term efforts to pull off a Mideast peace treaty. In particular, they rightly scorned his much bally-hooed statement of principles on the subject that called for a Palestinian state and a division of Jerusalem. They vowed they would never jump through hoops to suit the whims of the likes of Arafat.

But wars have a way of erasing both memory and sense. Napoleonic era theorist Karl von Clausewitz famously said that "war is not merely a political act, but a continuation of political relations, a carrying out of the same by other means."

But Clausewitz was only half right. War has a way of changing political objectives as everything else gets subordinated to the goal of military victory.

So in the name of an eventual victory over terror, Bush's people are preparing to offer their own Mideast peace plan. Forgotten are all previous attempts to "solve" the Palestinian problem. All have foundered - not on the perceived intransigence of Israel, but on the desire of Arafat and the Palestinians for nothing less than the destruction of the Jewish state.

Arafat proved this conclusively less than a year-and-a-half ago, when he turned down a Palestinian state at the Camp David summit.

Yet Bush's people have seized upon the idea of endorsing a Palestinian state. There has been talk that they may announce their support for this concept as well as push a peace plan at the General Assembly of the United Nations this month.

For all of the controversy that is generated by these ideas, the fact is, a Palestinian state already exists in the Palestinian Authority. It has control of a large amount of territory, and has an army of more than 50,000 men who masquerade as a police force. Israel agreed to this state in-all-but-name at Oslo in 1993.

Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, would actually be thrilled if they could sign a final-status agreement that codified the existence of this state. That way, the unceasing Palestinian terror attacks on Israel could be seen for what they are - acts of war by one state against another. Statehood would also undercut the drumbeat of Palestinian propaganda that terms cold-blooded murders of Israelis as part of its "uprising" against Israeli "occupation," rather than as state-sponsored terrorism.

Israel already faces all of the dangers that a Palestinian state poses. Arab murderers already have a safe haven from which to launch terrorism on Israel in P.A. territory.

The irony is, under the current circumstances, a Palestinian state will pose a much bigger problem for America than for Israel.

Formal sovereignty will solve none of the problems of the Palestinian people, who suffer bitterly at the hands of Arafat's despotic kleptocracy. There will be no freedom or prosperity in this state, which will serve as an irredentist force whose only aim will be to undermine Israel, Jordan and other neighboring countries.


The Palestinians will be just one more anti-American vote in the United Nations, but that's not the half of it. Once secure in its sovereignty, the State of Palestine will replace besieged Afghanistan and isolated Syria as the terror capital of the world.

Similar to when Arafat's Palestinian Liberation Organization ruled South Lebanon prior to 1982, the state of Palestine will be a magnet for every terror group on the planet. Terrorists won't have to brave the elements in Afghanistan to set up camps, they will be able to set up shop within stone-throwing distance of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

This will mean endless trouble for America's favorite "moderate" Arabs who live in fear of Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad - and who despise Arafat. The result will not be easy for Israel to deal with, but it will be especially troublesome for an American government that will be at once responsible for the new state, as well as one of its chief victims.

Thus, a Palestinian state will harm American security, as defined by the State Department and not pro-Israel groups.

Through the prism of war, many images can be distorted. But the greatest distortion appears to be the definition of American interests.

Far from subordinating American interests, friends of Israel who are worried about Washington's mad pursuit of Arab favor seem to have a better understanding of U.S. security than its supposed guardians.

JWR contributor Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent. Let him know what you think by clicking here.

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