TCS Daily

A Just Peace

By Pejman Yousefzadeh - July 5, 2002 12:00 AM

Immediately prior to President Bush's June 24th statement on the Middle East, the pundit class was almost unanimous in its belief-and in many cases, fear-that the President was prepared to call for an interim Palestinian state without any corresponding concessions from Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. For too long, the President was perceived as not applying the same doctrine the United States used in the war against al-Qaeda and the Taliban, to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Instead, President Bush delivered some of the toughest and most direct language offered by any administration to condemn Islamo-fascist terrorism, and to hold Yasser Arafat and his Palestinian Authority responsible. If the Administration's Middle East policy holds true to the President's June 24th rhetoric, it will represent real and significant progress in the search for Middle East peace, and in the quest to defeat and destroy the ideology of Islamo-fascism.

The President delivered a clear and unequivocal call for the Palestinian people to elect a new leadership, and to bring fairness to their political process. And well he should have. For starters, let there be no doubt about the fact that Yasser Arafat is not the legitimate head of the Palestinian people. Arafat's initial election in 1996-where he "won" nearly 90% of the vote-was a sham filled with innumerable instances of political intimidation and corrupt voting practices. Arafat ruthlessly used press censorship and his stormtroopers in the Palestinian security services to coerce Palestinians to cast votes in his favor. The fact that the election was certified as "free and fair" by people like former president Jimmy Carter does nothing whatsoever to gloss over this blatant theft of the 1996 election, and Arafat's ongoing efforts to suppress a genuine democratic movement among the Palestinian people.

Even assuming that the 1996 elections were free and fair, Arafat is still not the legitimate leader of the Palestinian people. Follow-up elections were supposed to be held in 1999, but never were. Arafat has delayed them for the past three years. Periodically, Arafat promises to hold new elections, but is always vague about the timing and the scope of the elections he promises. And then, almost immediately after promising new elections, Arafat ends up backtracking on his promises, with excuses that the Palestinian people are somehow incapable of electing new leaders until the Israeli "occupation" comes to an end. This double game has gone on long enough. Arafat is not committed to democratic reforms, and never will be. So long as he remains in power, peace will be a mirage, and violence will continue to plague the region.

It is, of course, utterly unrealistic to think that the Palestinian people will create a mirror image of American democracy overnight. Democratic traditions need time to develop and take root within a society. However, the status quo cannot stand. Arafat cannot be allowed to continue his thuggish, dictatorial rule over the Palestinian people. Unfortunately, currently, there is no check against Arafat's abuse of his people. This must change-and the best way to change it is to take preliminary steps towards the creation of democratic institutions for the Palestinian people. Free and fair elections, and the institution of democratic checks and balances against dictatorial rule, must be embarked upon.

Additionally, as the President rightly pointed out, Yasser Arafat and the current Palestinian leadership have blood on their hands. Their complicity in terrorist actions against Israelis and Americans is vast and detailed. Arafat actively encourages terrorist actions against Israeli civilians when communicating with his people. In the past, Arafat allied himself with the similarly odious and despicable Saddam Hussein-supporting Hussein in the prelude to the Persian Gulf War. Even now, Arafat gladly and gleefully allows Saddam to offer Palestinian families financial incentives to act as genocide bombers. Arafat's method of "leadership" crossed the line into the macabre and gruesome long ago.

Should terrorism continue under Arafat's sponsorship-and quite frankly, there is no reason whatsoever to believe that it will not-all the free elections in the world should not save Yasser Arafat from the righteous retribution of the very people he and his cronies seek to terrorize and kill. Indeed, Arafat's past sponsorship of terrorism should make him the political equivalent of the dodo bird-utterly and completely extinct. As is well-known, and detailed anew by writers like Ronen Mukamel, Arafat has a time-honored habit of condemning terrorist attacks like the genocide bombings used by Palestinian terrorists in English, yet praising those same attacks when giving a speech or issuing a communication in Arabic. This duplicity cannot and should not be tolerated by the United States any longer. Additionally, the Bush Administration should no longer indulge Arafat's pious protestations that he is doing everything he can to control the Islamo-fascist militants in Hamas and Hezbollah. Either Arafat has no power over these groups-in which case he is irrelevant to the peace process, or he has power and refuses to use it to halt terrorism-in which case he is a mortal threat and should be treated as such.

Indeed, there is almost no reason whatsoever the United States should indulge Arafat's leadership-or even his existence-much longer. And there are signs that it may not do so. At the G-8 summit held this past week, President Bush already appeared to be looking past Yasser Arafat, saying that the United States would not rule out military action against the Palestinian Authority. This is precisely the right approach to take-and actions should follow the President's words. The American military operation against terrorist groups in the Philippines provides a good model for an American military campaign against Palestinian terror groups. American special forces, and even conventional infantry and air support groups should be deployed to assist Israeli security forces in smoking out and destroying Palestinian terror groups. Such an operation would be even easier than the operation conducted against Philippine terror groups like Abu Sayyaf-which have the advantage of being able to hide in a dense jungle, an advantage that the Palestinian terror groups would not have. Working in conjunction, American and Israeli forces should be able to devastate the operations of the Palestinian terror groups, and at long last, undermine their commander-Yasser Arafat.

In addition, the Bush Administration should call out the Arab states on their false protestations of concern and worry for the Palestinian people. Arab states have some of the worst records in dealing with the Palestinian people. In Lebanon, Palestinians are considered second-class citizens-unable to live in certain places, or to work at certain jobs. Palestinians are looked down upon and discriminated against brutally in many of the Gulf states-including Saudi Arabia. In Iraq, Palestinians are continually kept in a state of utter poverty-surpassing even the deprivations of ordinary Iraqis. The United States should not be shy about noting that many of the Arab "supporters" of the Palestinian people are in fact revealed as hypocrites by the manner in which they actually treat the Palestinian people.

Finally, the President justifiably condemned nations like Syria for giving aid and comfort to terrorism. The President should follow-up by sending firm and clear warnings to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (who made his views on Middle East peace clear by reappointing to his cabinet a proponent of the blood libel against Israelis and Jews) that such aid and comfort will not be tolerated by the United States. Make no mistake-those who plot and scheme violence against the Israeli people will plot and scheme violence against the American people as well. They should not be allowed to safely nurse their dark and bloody fantasies. Assad, Saddam Hussein, and other radical Arab leaders should be made to understand that by supporting terrorism, they would only be signing their own death warrants, and the death warrants of their regimes.

The President's June 24th speech represents a clear application of the Bush Doctrine to the protracted Arab-Israeli conflict. At long last, the President has shrugged off some of the sluggishness and inconsistency that had previously surrounded his Middle East peace policy, and has taken a bold stand against terrorism of any form. We heard George W. Bush's true voice on June 24th. Now, the administration that bears his name must follow-up the President's strong speech with powerful and tangible acts consistent with the principles of the June 24th speech. Should they do so, they will advance the Middle East peace process far more dramatically than any interminable round of deal making with Yasser Arafat and his cronies within and outside of the Palestinian Authority ever could.



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