"I believe it’s possible — not only possible, I believe it’s going to happen, that there will be a signed peace treaty [between Israel and the PA] by the time I leave office [i.e., within a year]."
To say this is to be seriously out of touch with reality . Because it’s the president of the United States saying this, and he is prepared to base policy on this expectation, it’s dangerous. Certainly for us here in Israel. And I would say also for the US, as ultimately the forces of terrorism in the Middle East will be strengthened if he attempts to follow through with this vision, rather than "getting real."
This statement was made in the course of a joint Bush – Abbas press conference in Ramallah today. I would like to examine Bush’s words in more detail:
First, repeatedly in the course of his comments he refers to development of a Palestinian state that is a democracy. "I’ve come to the conclusion that both men understand the importance to (sic) democratic states living side by side in peace."
But there is nothing remotely democratic about society within the Palestinian areas. An election does not make a democracy. There is no rule of law, no freedom of speech or press. No valuing of the rights and dignity of each human being.
The notion that all of this can be imposed on a society within a year is total nonsense.
Bush makes some very glib, naive (very Western) assumptions that are quite false: "I believe, deep in the soul of every man, woman, and child on the face of this Earth is the desire to live in a free society. And I also believe free societies yield peace. And, therefore, this notion of two states living side by side in peace is based upon the universality of freedom, and if given a chance, the Palestinian people will work for freedom."
This very commonly held assumption ignores religion and ideology and their power. The Islamic vision is not one of freedom — which is, in a way, actually anathema to religious Muslims. Islam is about submission. (Islam in Arabic means surrender!) And radical Islam is about imposing that submission. Palestinians passionately committed to their Islam and the word of Muhammad are more concerned with driving out the Jews and controlling the land they believe is theirs than with instituting "freedoms."
To establish policy without this essential understanding is to miss the boat entirely and to generate an unstable situation.
Then Bush puts forth a false equation: That economic betterment will lead to democracy, desire for peace, etc. Bush is no socialist, surely, but at heart this is a socialist vision — that "fixing" the world has to do simply with material betterment. Again there is a failure to grapple with ideology. The perpetrators of 9-11 were middle class. Some of the richest people in the world are Arabs who demonstrate no desire to seek after democracy. Sometimes ideology trumps economics.
The greatest misrepresentation in this regard has to do with statements of Bush’s implying that Abbas is working to better the lot of the common man in the PA. "This man and his government not only works (sic) for a vision, but also works to improve the lives of the average citizens.."
About as far from the truth as you can get. What has happened is that Abbas has been pegged as "the" man to go with, and so he is being celebrated as something wonderful for his people. But Abbas is hated for his extreme corruption and his failure in recent years go reform. In the midst of abject poverty in Gaza, he had a mansion worth $1.5 million built for himself. He is so hated, that he is afraid to go out of Ramallah. And the lot of the common man in PA areas has only decreased over time.
So this is Bush’s very garbled plan, as laid out in his statement: The US is going to invest in Abbas big-time, helping him get together the infrastructure for a democracy, and giving financial aid to help improve the lot of the people, and military assistance so his security forces can function properly. All of this will be done in a matter of months, and then it will be possible for Israel and the PA to sign a peace treaty.
Well.. this is predicated on the assumption that Abbas really WANTS that peace treaty, really WANTS to take out terrorism, really WANTS to establish democracy, really WANTS to provide economic advancement for the people rather than for himself and his cronies. I maintain that he doesn’t (about which more below). The US hasn’t learned — all of the efforts to "fix" the PA from the outside, via vast infusions of aid, have not worked until now. There is no reason to believe it will work now.
But there is another catch, and I confess to being confused as to exactly what Bush envisions here: That is the issue of what to do with Gaza, which Abbas does not remotely control.
Says Bush: "…Gaza is a tough situation. I don’t know whether you can solve it in a year, or not. But I know this: It can’t be solved unless the Prime Minister — the President has a vision that he can lay out to the people of Gaza that says, here’s your choice: Do you want those who have created chaos to run your country, or do you want those of us who negotiated a settlement with the Israelis that will lead to lasting peace?"
Heaven save us from such simplistic thinking! I return to all that I said above. The population of Gaza is radicalized. Bush is dreaming if he thinks offering them a "vision" of a peace treaty (which Hamas maintains is a sell-out that deprives the people of their rights to all the land) will turn them around.
Then there’s another, cart-before-the-horse issue. I heard Olmert say yesterday that there would be no peace treaty unless terrorism in Gaza stopped and Gaza was part of the package. In other words, there can be no peace treaty to offer the people of Gaza UNTIL Gaza is already on board. Catch 22. What is the president thinking? He’d better go back to the drawing board on this one.
Bush in his press conference refers to the Palestinian need for contiguity, and how they cannot settle for a state that is "Swiss cheese." That means elimination of settlements. Elsewhere, I understand, he made a statement to the press today regarding the fact that Israel must return to pre-’67 lines.
Not acceptable, and he will have a huge fight on his hands with regard to this. All the talk two years ago about how he was on our side, with the letter he wrote to Sharon that said demographic realities on the ground would have to be considered. Worth less than nothing. Our friend, indeed.
He refers to defeating terrorism via offering a better vision. He refers to providing help in developing effective security forces (which implies action against terrorism). But no where do I see in the text of his press conference an unequivocal statement that until Abbas cleans up his security forces (which now incorporate terrorists), and takes out the terrorist infrastructure in Judea and Samaria, nothing will be possible in the way of treaties. And I’d like to know why not.
Similarly, while he is quick to demand that Israel pull out of settlements so that the PA can have "contiguity," he makes no public demand of Abbas that the PA halt all official incitement. That incitement is rife — in textbooks that are teaching a generation to see Israel as not legitimate, in sermons broadcast on PA radio, in a host of other materials put out that suggest the Palestinians wil
l take all of the land and that "armed resistance" is desirable. I want to know how Mr. Bush justifies ignoring this.
An examination of politics, in many of its ramifications in Israel, which I had hoped to address today, will have to wait for another day.
There is one issue further I want to call to your attention here:
I have, as many of you are aware , written a new report, Fatah as "Moderate" — A Hard Look Post-Annapolis, that documents clearly the fact that Fatah is not moderate.
Last night, three upright Israeli citizens , participating in a project in which Council of Young Israel was involved, went to distribute copies of my report to the press so that they might be informed of facts not broadly disseminated by those promoting the "peace process."
They were outside the hotel where many of the foreign press were staying, when my material was examined by a police officer and they were arrested because my material was deemed to be "seditious." After intervention by a higher level officer, they were released. My material was retained. A civil rights lawyer — the son of one of those taken into custody — is supposed to be working on demanding that the material be returned and that an apology be issued.
I do not know if this was the result of hysteria because of Bush’s presence, or of a broader attempt to stifle information because the Olmert government would find it more difficult to push through its agenda if the facts were broadly exposed. That the material was confiscated tends to suggest the latter, but I cannot be certain.
Below is the link to that material. Please, now, read it, share it, and use the information it provides in helping to fight the good fight for Israel’s survival.