In his speech last month, President Bush laid out a diagram for genuine peace between Palestinians and Israelis. In essence, the United States has declared that there can be no peace with Arafat or with the Palestinian Authority, but that she would fully support a democratic Palestinian nation that eliminated terror and negotiated a fair settlement with Israel. Never has the Palestinian dream of a state, or a free and prosperous Arab nation, been closer to realization.
In spite of its good intentions, the plan hasn’t got a chance.
“Peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership, so that a Palestinian state can be born,” said Bush. “I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror. I call upon them to build a practicing democracy based on tolerance and liberty.” Bush’s conditions for a Palestinian state are minimal: a regime change, democracy and a governmental apparatus that at the very least doesn’t sustain terrorists. The first stipulation has seldom been pulled off in an Arab state without sadistic violence (I only use the word ‘seldom’ in the slim chance I might have missed a peaceful Arab regime change somewhere in the history books. I doubt it.) The second, an Arab democracy, exists only as some futuristic, utopian fantasy in Colin Powell’s imagination.
Recently, just in case there was still anyone in the administration that believed in the PA’s quest for peace, Bush received an intelligence report that Arafat had approved a $20,000 payment to members of the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades terror group, an action that may or may not have convinced the President that the godfather of modern terror had to go. (Apparently, that and the Karine A shipment from Iran in January was not enough to convince the European Union, which released over 18 million Euros to the P.A. this week. Israel can now understandably hold the EU partially responsible for the death of her civilians.) Bush also told his key allies that the United States would cut off aid to the Palestinians if they failed to embrace the changes he suggested.
Shimon Peres, who now embarrasses the Israeli government and Jews worldwide every time he speaks, said that Bush’s speech was a “fatal mistake” and that a bloodbath would follow. Peres, like his allies in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Nations, would like to see Palestinian statehood established with reforms implemented afterward. If a few hundred Israeli children are killed while the PA mobster state expands, well, legacy building has a price. Peres’ friend, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who you’d mistakenly believe would be particularly supportive of free and open elections, also echoed warnings from top Palestinians, cautioning against free elections that could put “extremists” in power legally, producing a more radical leadership.
Unfortunately, Annan may have a point.
Bush’s assertion that Palestinians should elect someone not “compromised” by terror is regretfully unrealistic. After decades of anti-Semitic propaganda and jihadist brainwashing, polls substantiate the uncivilized tenor of the general population in Palestinian territory, which widely supports terror. In a recent poll, a majority of Palestinians said their goal was the elimination Israel, while only 43 percent support a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza. The same polls showed that between 60 percent and more than 70 percent of Palestinians support suicide bombings. Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times also reported in a poll conducted this month by the Jerusalem Media & Communications Center, that 25 percent of Palestinians chose Arafat as the person they “trust the most.” Arafat’s closest rival? Sheik Ahmed Yassin, spiritual leader of the terror group Hamas, who picked up 9 percent. Hamas does not recognize the PA and did not run candidates 1996 election, and may not participate in any election in the near future.
Israeli Housing Minister Natan Sharansky, for one, believes that of all the Arabs Palestinians are the closest to a democracy. Sharansky, a gulag survivor, blames the West for propping up a dictator like Arafat. And when reminded that the polls show the Palestinians still support Arafat in big numbers, Sharansky asked, “What does it mean that the Palestinians love only Arafat, the Russians when asked loved only Stalin. Did they have a choice? Has anybody made sure that the Palestinians have a choice?” Which adversary of Israel will guarantee that Palestinians actually have a “choice” this time? The EU? Jimmy Carter? Powell? Arafat? And what does a democracy guarantee anyway? The elected Iranian parliament makes the autocratic King of Jordan seem like Thomas Jefferson. Democracy on its own means nothing. But perhaps the Palestinians will surprise the world. Perhaps they will transform the Middle East forever. More likely, overwhelming and foolish hatred will trump the promise of freedom and prosperity.