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

May 21, 2003

The Right Man? Yeah, Right...

Among the agonizing news stories that ran yesterday was this one from the World Tribune:
U.S. gives priority to Palestinian state over Mideast democracy

The Bush administration has decided to rank its pro-democracy drive in the Middle East behind other U.S. priorities in the region, such as the establishment of a Palestinian state and the reconstruction of Iraq.

Officials said the State Department has helped redefine a call by President George Bush last year that sought to encourage democracy as a key to Middle East stability and peace. They said the administration has now agreed that the State Department would focus on the establishment of a Palestinian state and the reconstruction of Iraq while it lowers the profile of any pro-democracy effort in the region.
Democracy, freedom and human rights are the fundamentals of the Right; how come "The Right Man" has ordered democracy to be ranked behind the "establishment of a Palestinian state", which has never been a fundamental value of the Right? And wasn't democracy listed as a precondition for granting the "Palestinians" a sovereign state (Bush' speech of 24 June 2002)?

Insight into the answer, and into the abyss facing Israel as a consequence, may be gleaned from a book by an insider who is as loyal and as sympathetic to Bush as they come:

Frum, David. The Right Man. New York: Random House, 2003. See esp. Ch. 13, "Promised Land".

In what follows I borrow the facts and quotations from Frum, but give them my own interpretation, which differs markedly from Frum's. In the subsequent text, page numbers in brackets refer to David From's book.

To set the stage, David Frum notes that (p. 247), "Bush entered office with fewer Jewish friends and supporters than any president since perhaps Dwight Eisenhower. There were no Jews in his cabinet and few on his staff".

A few months into his administration, Bush delivered a speech in May 2001. David Frum, who wrote the speech, notes (p. 252):

Bush had visited the country for the first time in 1998 and had been startled by Israel's smallness and vulnerability. The speech [given by Bush in May 2001] built on his experience: "For a Texan, a first visit to Israel is an eye-opener. At the narrowest point, it's only eight miles from the Mediterranean to the old armistice line: That's less than from the top to the bottom of Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. The whole of pre-1967 Israel is only about six times the size of the King Ranch. It's a small country that has lived under threat throughout its existence. At my first meeting of my National Security Council, I told them that a top foreign-policy priority of my administration is the safety and security of Israel. My administration will be steadfast in supporting Israel against terrorism and violence, and in seeking the peace for which all Israelis pray."
While the text of this speech reflected understanding of Israel's predicament, the reality was that six months into Arafat's intifada, "Bush's decision to pass responsibility for the Middle East to the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency empowered those foreign policy bureaucrats most eager to appease the Arab oil states" (p. 254). Indeed, even as early as mid-2001, Powell was already working on a plan, "announcing a three-year timetable for the creation of a Palestinian state defended by an international military force. When a suicide bomber blew up a Sbarro's pizzeria in central Jerusalem, killing fifteen people, including six children and three Americans, the State Department's spokesman condemned Israel for retaliating. On August 28 came another condemnation of Israel, this one coordinated with Great Britain." Blair, one should recall, is another one of those who is supposed to be Israel's friend.

It is important to underscore that offering Arafat a state with international guarantees in the midst of the terror he was unleashing - the very phenomenon we see today - is nothing new, but rather Powell's policy dating back to August 2001, if not earlier. But, as David Frum notes, things got much worse (pp. 254-5):
You might think that September 11 would have discredited the old terror master. Bush said that if you fed, sheltered, clothed, or armed a terrorist, you were a terrorist. The Palestinian Authority consistently did all those things. But as Bush focussed on danger at home and the war in Afghanistan, his State Department reverted to its old Gulf War theory that the United States could earn the right to defend its interests in the Middle East only by first ostentatiously whacking Israel.

On October 2, 2001, the same day that Palestinian gunmen burst into a settlement in the Gaza Strip, randomly shooting civilian residents and killing a young courting couple, President Bush announced his personal support for a Palestinian state. "The idea of a Palestinian state has always been a part of a vision..." Two weeks later, Tony Blair invited Yasser Arafat to 10 Downing Street, and stepped out to announce that Britain too now supported the prompt creation of a state for Arafat.

On October 17, four members of Arafat's personal entourage entered a Jerusalem hotel and assassinated an Israeli cabinet minister after breakfast.
What is shocking in particular is the fact that these events happened just one month after 9-11, and coddling the terrorist Arafat had not changed one bit. The only change that I was able to discern from Frum's narrative was Bush' refusal to have any further meetings with Arafat. The Bush decision to shun Arafat in this way was strengthened after January 5, 2002, when Israel intercepted the Karine A arms ship and Arafat denied culpability. Bush went one step further and on March 30, declaring (p. 258),

I fully understand Israel's need to defend herself; I respect that. It's a country that has seen a wave of suicide bombers coming into the hearts of their cities and killing innocent people. That country has a right to defend herself.
But the influence of Foggy Bottom was not about to be diminished and a few days later, on April 4, 2002, Bush gave Arafat yet another chance to reform himself (pp. 258-9):

Everyone must choose; you're either with the civilized world, or you're with the terrorists. All in the Middle East also must choose and must move decisively in word and deed against terrorist acts.
...
I call on the Palestinian people, the Palestinian Authority, and our friends in the Arab world to join us in a clear message to terrorists: Blowing yourself up does not help the Palestinian cause. On the contrary, suicide bombing missions could well blow up the best and only hope for a Palestinian state.
In the meantime, the rank and file of the Republican party showed an overwhelming support for Israel (67%) and not for the "Palestinians" (8%). Still, when the time came to deliver the June 24, 2002 speech, there again was the promise of a "Palestinian" state. True, it was predicated on electing "new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror" and on building "a practising democracy, based on tolerance and liberty". But...

What does history tell us about conditional rewards granted to Arabs generally and to the "Palestinians" in particular? The rewards are the only thing that remains in their consciousness and propaganda, while the conditions evaporate. Here are but two examples.

In 1921, Churchill appointed the Emir Abdullah as ruler of "Transjordan" (the eastern part of Palestine that the San Remo conference granted the Jews as part of their National Home); this was supposed to be a 6-month temporary appointment, conditional on stopping attacks on the French in Syria. The conditions were not fulfilled and the "temporary appointment" turned permanent - the conditions evaporated, the reward remained. Even worse goes for Oslo: self-determination (autonomy) was contemplated, conditional on specific security and incitement provisions. The conditions evaporated, the reward grew from self-determination to sovereignty.

As for the Bush vision of June 24, the reality is that the "new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror" are Arafat's old guard, with Arafat himself firmly in control. "A practising democracy, based on tolerance and liberty" continues incitement with no elections in sight. But the reward of sovereignty still has a date: 2005. What was supposed to be a sequential development, i.e., conditions fulfilled and then a state, now becomes a parallel process, with Israel being squeezed as usual. Which brings us back to the quotation from World Tribune with which I began this piece: even the "democracy" objective itself has been downgraded, ranking behind the creation of a sovereign "Palestine"!

Two questions come to mind to conclude this review:

First, the developments being what they are, how could David Frum have come to the conclusion that (p.248)

It is, then, really quite a stunning turnabout of history that George W. Bush should have emerged as one of the staunchest friends of Israel ever to occupy the Oval Office,
unless, of course, others were so much worse ("in the land of the blind, the one-eyed is king"). To me, Bush is NOT the Right man at all, at least not with regard to his policy towards Israel.

Second question: As I see it, the only genuine support for Israel is rooted in the rank and file of the Republican party. Why is this support not cultivated, nourished and marshalled? As earlier articles have shown (Wake up, and All Hail Islam Online), just last weekend (17-18 May, 2003) Washington saw a Zionist-Christian gathering of some 1,000 delegates, but one would hardly know such a thing transpired, judging by Israel's PR or the media - Washington Times and Islam Online excepted. What kind of way is this to wage a war?