If Israel cedes territory, radical Islam winsFormer Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Dore Gold writes today that Israel ceding territory to the 'Palestinians' will not bring peace - it will whet the appetite of radical Islam for even more.
It should be remembered that in the 1990s, the U.S. and its allies addressed many political grievances of the Islamic world in Kuwait, Somalia and especially in Bosnia. In the Arab-Israeli sector, the Clinton administration devoted more time to Arab-Israeli diplomacy than most of its predecessors, with the 1993 Oslo Accords, the 1994 Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty, the 1997 Hebron Agreement, the 1998 Wye Agreement, and finally the attempt to reach a permanent-status agreement at Camp David in 2000. But al Qaeda only grew in strength. There were attacks in Saudi Arabia in 1995, East Africa in 1998, Yemen in 2000 and finally 9/11.For those who still can't get it, the conflict between Israel and the 'Palestinians' is not about territory. When the 'Palestinians' and their Arab brethren who created them accept fully the existence of a Jewish state on the land of the State of Israel, there will be no more wars and no more bloodshed. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen in this generation, and given the way the 'Palestinian Authority' is educating the next generation, it's unlikely to happen in the next generation either. So long as the 'Palestinians' still aspire to drive Israel into the sea, and regard the creation of a 'Palestinian'
In other words, there was no correlation between U.S.-led diplomatic efforts to ameliorate the grievances voiced by radical Islamic groups and the appeal of al Qaeda.
What the Gaza pullout showed, however, was that mishandling the Israeli-Palestinian issue can exacerbate the threat of radical Islam, especially if it deepens the sense in radical Islamic circles that their military efforts have paid off. Today, leading Western diplomats have been praising the Arab League Peace Initiative--based on the 2002 Saudi Plan--which calls on Israel to fully withdraw to the pre-1967 lines (i.e., leave the Golan Heights and entire West Bank) in exchange for "normal relations" with the Arab world. The Saudi Plan re-divides Jerusalem.
This proposal goes well beyond the requirements of peacemaking envisioned by the United Nations in Security Council Resolution 242 (November 1967), which did not demand a complete Israeli pullback. The Arab Initiative also goes far beyond the letter of assurances sent by President Bush to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on April 14, 2004, which guaranteed Israel's right to "defensible borders" in the West Bank (and hence precluded the kind of withdrawal envisioned by the Saudis).
But what if Israel were to feel pressured by the U.S. and its partners--and it conceded its right to defensible borders at the upcoming Middle Eastern peace conference by agreeing to the terms of the Arab Initiative? Gaza provides a preview.
For example, if Israel left the Jordan Valley, its strategic barrier in the east, this would create a new security vacuum. This would not only undermine Israel, but would pose a threat to Jordan, which has already suffered from Iraqi al Qaeda over the last few years with suicide bombing attacks in Amman. Jordan would become the new forward base for Jihadi groups moving against Israel. Two years ago, Israel discovered that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the late leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, had already set up cells for this purpose in the Jordanian city of Irbid.
Even before the implementation of such far-reaching concessions, serious destabilization could easily erupt. Today, the main reason why Mahmoud Abbas and the remains of his Fatah movement retain power in the West Bank is not their popularity. Observers forget that Hamas also won the Palestinian elections in the West Bank in 2006. However, in contrast to the situation in Gaza, the Israeli Army is fully deployed in strategic areas of the West Bank and could intervene in minutes if Hamas tried to execute a Gaza-style military coup to topple Mr. Abbas.
One of the diplomatic proposals that has been on the table since 2002 is to get Israel to withdraw from its current deployment to the lines it held on September 2000, presumably with international guarantees. If Israel were to agree to this idea, it would be hailed by the Western powers as a vital step towards the achievement of an Arab-Israeli peace. But it would also, under present conditions, set the stage for a complete Hamas takeover in the West Bank as well and create a huge victory for radical Islam.
Forty years ago when U.N. Resolution 242 was drafted, its architects understood that peacemaking required balance. Israel would have to compromise, but its diplomacy should not undermine the delicate strategic balance in the Middle East with a radical pullout that would leave it excessively vulnerable. Effective diplomacy today requires striking the same careful balance--seizing opportunities for real peace, but granting Israel its right to defensible borders.
Pushing Israel back to the pre-1967 lines will not satisfy al Qaeda, nor will it bring peace. Right now, what the Palestinians need is help to build a stable civil society with governing institutions that work, not a return to the ceremonial diplomacy of the 1990s. The errors of past Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking have not been cost-free. They have real consequences in terms of loss of life and a deepening conflict. These initiatives do not halt the assault of radical Islam against the West. In fact, if mishandled, they can make it far worse.
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