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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

March 27, 2003

Failed Experiments

This extract from The New Republic sums up the gist of the Peretz piece as it pertains to the Palestinian and Israeli pot-hole roadmap.
In fact, a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza won't conciliate even the Palestinians. Most of them will still want Israel. Which is why the obsession of the "peace processors" with stopping new Israeli settlements in the contentious territories is largely irrelevant. In the context of a realistic agreement, I'd favor such a cessation (and the withdrawal from some settlements, too). But such an agreement won't emerge until Muslim would-be martyrs stop targeting random Jews. And, besides, what does any of this have to do with Iraq? Israel, after all, does not use biological or chemical weapons, and its wars are wars of defense. If anyone in the conflict has affinities with Saddam, it is the Palestinians. The main difference between the Palestinian leadership and the Iraqi leadership is that the Palestinians don't have a state through which to pursue their frightening ambitions.

The road map is a product of something called the Quartet, a fictional musical group comprising the European Union, the U.N. secretariat, Russia, and the United States. Its sounds are discordant. Everybody save the United States puts the burden on Israel to start the process. But that is not President Bush's view, and it certainly isn't Ariel Sharon's. One of the prerequisites of the futuristic plan is that the Palestinian leadership become more accountable and even democratic. And, under duress, Yasir Arafat has now designated a prime minister, Abu Mazen, with whom Israel is ready to try doing diplomatic business. But only if he has real power, which, as of now, we cannot be sure. In an article in the March 17 Weekly Standard, Robert Satloff notes that no Arab country, with the exception of Lebanon, has a prime minister who means anything. Not one is the leader of a parliamentary majority, not one supervises the army or intelligence service, and not one directs his nation's foreign policy. Maybe Abu Mazen will be the first; I wouldn't bet on it. Unfortunately, Blair already has. After his Azores reunion with Bush, both Blair and the Spanish premier saluted Abu Mazen as if he already held substantial powers. That enthusiasm may turn out to be an embarrassment.

And there is one more problem: The Quartet has no standing with Israel. Neither the Russians nor the Europeans nor Kofi Annan has ever produced a meaningful concession from the Palestinians or from an abutting Arab state. Especially in light of their behavior over Iraq during the last half-year, they should have no standing with us either. What would President Vladimir Putin or Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin actually bring to the Mideast negotiating table? OK, give Tony Blair a seat at the table. He deserves this medal for bravery. But he should be careful about what he says: He is too eager to please, when pleasing also misleads. [note: full article available only by subscription]