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Jewish World Review Dec. 26, 2000 / 29 Kislev, 5761

Michael Ledeen

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Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy -- LIKE THE PROVERBIAL bad penny, Bill Clinton keeps showing up at the most embarrassing times. One might have expected him to leave sensitive national-security problems to his successor, or at the very least to coordinate any new initiative with Bush, Powell, and Cheney. No way. Slick Willy's still looking for his Nobel Prize, and he's gonna do his damnedest to get it, whatever the cost to us and our friends.

Accordingly, he's dragooned his pal Ehud Barak to come over here one more time to try to cut a deal with Yasser Arafat. Nothing more offensive to normal sensibilities can be imagined. Clinton himself is a lame duck, unable to make credible commitments. Barak is worse than a lame duck. He's the head of a caretaker government, pending new elections, having been rejected by his own coalition and, according to the polls, by the overwhelming majority of Israeli voters. Arafat, the corrupt tinpot dictator of the Palestinian Authority, has no such problems. He doesn't have to worry about annoying elections or irritating parliamentary majorities; he just tells the Palestinians what to do, or else.

As always, the newspapers are full of strategic leaks, suggesting that Barak is now prepared to give away even more of his country and its capital than he was a few months ago at Camp David, when he offered half of Jerusalem to the PLA. Arafat declared that Jerusalem was "non-negotiable," and stomped off, leaving his shooters to lob mortars at the Jews every night.

No Israeli prime minister in his right mind would negotiate under these circumstances, but there is no evidence that Barak has a right mind, let alone getting into it. He's doing this crazy thing for two reasons: First, because he hopes that he can get a deal that will gull the Israeli electorate into thinking that they can have peace with Arafat, and second, because he owes his position to Clinton. Clinton, after all, sent his political mavens Carville and Greenberg to Israel to run Barak's campaign, and had his ham-handed ambassador, Indyk, openly support Barak's candidacy.

It's an ugly and corrupt spectacle, and one wishes that the pundits and the politicians of both parties would pull the plug on it. By now most everyone recognizes that Arafat is convinced he can have it all, and thus any apparent compromise will only be tactical. Israel's problems aren't going to be solved at the peace table for the foreseeable future, as the Iraqi Defense Minister just confirmed. "The Palestinian cause will not be solved," he intoned, "until the Jews leave Palestinian and its (Arab) people return to their homeland." He helpfully added that Iraq was fully capable of destroying Israel in war.

But Iraq is a real problem, and its solution requires strength and nerve. Our current leaders don't have any. They go dancing with dictators in Pyongyang and Hanoi, and then pretend to bring peace to a region that has long since started down the road to war.

If you want a good one-word description of the Clinton legacy, try "shame."

JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of Tocqueville on American Character . Comment by clicking here.


12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2000, Michael Ledeen