TCS Daily

The Globalization of Gaza

By Michael Totten - July 28, 2003 12:00 AM

Suicide-bombing is spreading. In May 2003 five simultaneous attacks ripped through Casablanca, Morocco. Earlier this month two female suicide-bombers triggered explosive belts at an outdoor concert in Moscow. On the same day three Sunni Muslims blew themselves up in a Shi'ite Pakistan mosque.


From the point of view of extremists, suicide-murder pays. Apocalyptic acts like those unleashed on September 11 provoke an overwhelming military response. But small-bore acts by Palestinians against Israelis produce an opposite reaction. Endless media coverage stokes a rising public sympathy and encourages calls for appeasement and even surrender.


It is time to ask ourselves honestly: Is it possible to support a Palestinian state without encouraging terrorists elsewhere?


There are many stateless Muslims; the Chechens in Russia, the Kurds in the Middle East, the Uighurs in Eastern China, and the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Opinion leaders tsk-tsk the Russians, but no one holds demonstrations for the liberation of Chechnya. The Kurds are good people and they deserve their own state, but nearly everyone agrees it would only make trouble. Few even know the Uighurs exist. Meanwhile, as the Palestinians continue the jihad, the number of their supporters isn't declining. It's rising. The lesson for extremists is clear: the squeaky wheel gets greased.


Lest the Arab-Israeli conflict grind on indefinitely, Palestinians eventually need their own state. But we need to find a way to get them that state while discouraging bad actors elsewhere.


Though it looks good on paper, the current "road map" to peace won't cut it. Here is what the U.S. State Department says the first phase requires:


Palestinian leadership issues unequivocal statement reiterating Israel's right to exist in peace and security and calling for an immediate and unconditional cease-fire to end armed activity and all acts of violence against Israelis anywhere. All official Palestinian institutions end incitement against Israel.


It's already breaking down.


Hamas and Islamic Jihad declared a temporary cease-fire, but it is not unconditional as required, and it has already been violated. The Palestinian Authority still incites the population to murder. The new prime minister Mahmoud Abbas may have issued a statement reiterating Israel's right to exist, but he also invited members of openly genocidal Hamas and Islamic Jihad into a unified national leadership.


The trouble with the road map isn't that Palestinians won't cooperate. The problem is there's no punishment if they don't.


Instead, Israelis are effectively told they have no right to defend themselves; that only the Palestinian Authority is allowed to fight terror. The San Francisco Chronicle perfectly captures the conventional view not just of the Western media, but also of the United Nations, the European Union, and the State Department:


Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon vows to continue fighting Hamas, Hamas officials vow to continue with their attacks, and Palestinian Authority officials, caught in the middle, issue ineffectual appeals for calm.


Every flaw with the current approach is revealed here. Palestinian obligations are swept to the side. Anti-terrorism is said to be part of the problem. And the Palestinian Authority is falsely described as the peace-craving center.


But the biggest flaw in the road map comes later:


In the second phase, efforts are focused on the option of creating an independent Palestinian state with provisional borders and attributes of sovereignty, based on the new constitution, as a way station to a permanent status settlement. As has been noted, this goal can be achieved when the Palestinian people have a leadership acting decisively against terror...


So as long as the leadership acts "decisively against terror," sovereignty will be granted even while war rages on. But who decides what "decisively" means? The Palestinian Authority has a history of duplicitous behavior, arresting terrorists only to release them days later, and condemning terror in English while inciting in Arabic. The leadership continues to do this today, though the conventional view is that they are working toward peace. "Decisively" in this context turns out to be decisively subjective.


Before the intifada was launched in 2000, a Palestinian state was not a guaranteed outcome but an option to be negotiated. George W. Bush is the first American president to use the words "Palestinian" and "state" in the same sentence. Bill Clinton never went so far. Bush didn't do this because the Palestinians are suddenly more deserving of a homeland. He did so because they violently demanded it.


It's an object lesson for would-be terrorists elsewhere. Terror precipitates a crisis, generates public sympathy, and produces results on a much faster schedule.


On July 22 Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas said "Cracking down on Hamas, Jihad and the Palestinian organizations is not an option at all." So the road map will likely break down. Then we can restart from scratch in a way that might actually work.


It is possible to have it both ways. We can fight and discourage terror and also work toward a two-state solution. But we can't do both at the same time. And we certainly can't make a Palestinian state the priority.

Here's the way an effective solution might work. First, defeat terrorism. Second, nurture democracy. Third, negotiate a settlement. 

The first phase should be simple. Terrorism must be punished. And anti-terrorism must be encouraged.  The Palestinian Authority should be given one last chance to eliminate terror. And if the PA refuses, the U.S. must do the following:


  • Classify the Palestinian Authority as a terrorist organization.
  • Declare "regime change" in the West Bank and Gaza the official United States policy.
  • Support to the hilt every anti-terror operation by Israelis short of war crimes.


The first phase would not be complete until the enemies of peace are defeated, deported, imprisoned, or killed. These include Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Yasser Arafat's Fatah, the Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigades, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. It may also include the Palestinian Authority.


The second phase should focus on establishing a reformed or reconstituted leadership and bringing about a Palestinian culture accepting of peace and a two-state solution.


It should include something akin to the following:


·         The establishment of the separation of powers and the rule of law.

·         The creation of a democratic system of government with multiple parties and free elections. Fascist parties should be banned as they were in post-Nazi Germany.

·         An education system purged of anti-Semitism and incitement to violence.

·         A binding peace treaty that recognizes Israel's sovereignty.

·         A formal abandonment of the "right of return," where millions of Palestinians are expected to settle in Israel.


The most crucial detail of all will come in the third and final phase when a permanent settlement is decided. There must be a post-facto punishment for the intifada.


No future Palestinian state should be geographically larger than the one already offered by Bill Clinton and Ehud Barak in 2000. Even if the Palestinians get only one acre less in the end, the intifada must be shown to have yielded them nothing.


There is a moral case to be made for a Palestinian state. There's a strategic and "realist" case to be made for it, too. But it is trumped by the need to contain a fast-spreading barbarism. No country on Earth should appease or surrender to terror. Peace at any price has a price tag too high. A devastating wave of suicide attacks in Moscow, London, New York, and Bombay is a real possibility and would distort and deform our societies beyond recognition.


Palestinians will have to wait for their state no matter how long it takes. The alternative is the globalization of Gaza.

Michael J. Totten is a writer based in Portland,
Oregon. His online home is here.

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