Politics & Policy

Secretary of Incoherence

Colin Powell speaks on U.S. Mideast policy.

In his remarks yesterday at the Work Economic Forum in Switzerland, Secretary of State Colin Powell said, in part:

The situation in the Middle East is proving to be among our most challenging, based however on the President’s vision, President Bush’s vision of two states, living side-by-side, in peace and security. And with the help of the international community, we and our Quartet partners have drawn up a roadmap that shows the way to a lasting peace.

To achieve this vision, the Palestinians must build trust by establishing a new and different leadership and new institutions and by putting an end to all terror, all violence. Israel also will be required to build trust by easing the economic plight of ordinary Palestinians and by putting an end to settlement construction.

With intensive effort by all, the creation of a democratic, viable Palestine is possible in 2005. And the United States will be engaging fully in this prospect, in this effort, in the coming months and years.

With respect to the broader Middle East, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah is right: Arab governments must introduce meaningful political and economic reforms if their people are to realize their potential. Indeed, all of us must work with citizens and governments of the region to close what Jordan’s Queen Rania eloquently calls the “Hope Gap.”

And in response to a question, Powell said:

My heart grieves when I think about the situation in the Middle East. I’ve worked very hard on this for two years, and for years before that. But trust is broken down. We have to do everything we can in our power–all of us, the United States, the European Union, any other nation that has the ability to influence the situation in the Middle East–to work with the Palestinians to put in place a leadership that is responsible, with representative institutions of government that will clamp down on terrorism, that will say to its people, “Terrorism is not getting us anywhere. It is not producing what we want: a Palestinian state. It is keeping us away from a Palestinian state.”

And we also have to say to our Israeli friends that you have to do more to deal with the humanitarian concerns of the Palestinian people, and you have to understand that a Palestinian state, when it’s created, must be a real state, not a phony state that’s diced into a thousand different pieces.

And that’s what we’re going to be concentrating on in the months ahead with the roadmap that’s been created.

Powell’s grieving heart is no excuse for misguided and even dangerous policies. Yasser Arafat, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah–all of which are funded and supported in varying degrees by, among others, Iran, Syria, Iraq, and, yes, Saudi Arabia–are the reasons why Israel doesn’t plunge itself into another round of “peace” talks. Israel is defending itself from the same terrorist entities that despise the West in general, and the U.S. specifically. How can Israel be expected to make more concessions and divest more of its land, when to do so now would weaken its national security? I can think of no other country on which the U.S. imposes such demands.

Powell also absurdly singles out Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah for having urged “political and economic reforms” in the region. The Saudi Wahabbis practice an extreme form of Islam, which is the source of much terrorism in the world. The Saudis run an authoritarian regime that brutally represses Shiites and other groups, with nary a word of condemnation from Powell or his State Department. And its economy, which can best be described as oligopolistic socialism, is the antithesis of economic reform.

Powell’s reference to Jordan’s Queen Rania’s “Hope Gap” is also odd. In the 1970s, Arafat and his Palestinian Liberation Organization were based in Jordan. At one point, a large percentage of Jordanians were Palestinian. Fearing their threat to his kingdom, King Hussein called up his army and launched a bloody war against the Palestinians, killing thousands and driving many of them to other countries. Arafat relocated to Lebanon, once a thriving nation and tolerant society. Civil war broke out there as well, and Israel was compelled to send its military into southern Lebanon to prevent terrorist attacks against its population. Arafat was forced into exile in Tunisia. The Syrians then installed a puppet regime in Lebanon, which remains to this day. Hezbollah forces, backed by Syria and Iran, now freely roam Lebanon, where they’re poised to attack northern Israel at any time, and frequently fire artillery rounds into Jewish border towns.

So, what exactly is meant by Queen Rania’s “Hope Gap,” and why would Powell reference it? Presumably it doesn’t include Jordan welcoming back the Palestinians driven from their homes 30-years ago.

And precisely what so-called “homeland” rights do the Palestinians have in Israel? What part of history will be embraced or ignored as a supposed basis for rearranging Israel’s borders to meet the changing demands of the Palestinians and her Arab neighbors? It’s difficult to see how any modern nation can remain whole if its various parts are carved away in response to demands by so-called indigenous people, and at the urging of hostile surrounding regimes.

Moreover, the current configuration of most Arab states was set only a decade or two prior to Israel’s founding. And there are a wide variety of tribal and religious groups with legitimate demands for autonomy or land in these countries. But none of their claims are given serious consideration by the world community.

Of course, among those who would have legitimate claims would be the Jews. In the last century and before, Jews were forced from their homes in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, and other Middle East countries. They were forced from Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary, and other European nations. Yet, there has never been, and never will be, serious consideration to returning these lands to the Jews.

The incoherence of U.S. policy, on display in Powell’s statement, is most galling given our 9/11 experience. Powell says that the Palestinians must do more to stop terrorism, and that he believes a free, viable Palestinian state is possible by 2005. Meanwhile, the Palestinians are inciting terrorism. With whom are the Israelis supposed to negotiate? Surely not Arafat.

It’s time for Powell to be intellectually honest about the Israeli-Palestinian situation. Where are the Palestinian moderates? Most of them have been murdered for supposedly collaborating with the enemy. Moreover, there doesn’t appear to be popular support for such leaders. But this is the nature of terrorism and terrorist regimes. They rule at the point of a gun. They keep their people hungry, illiterate, and angry.

Like the U.S. and every other nation that faces terrorism, Israel cannot and will not capitulate to terrorists. And apart from urging the Palestinians to control terrorism, which is facile, Powell offers not a single realistic suggestion on how this is to be accomplished. Powell seeks to deny Israel the same response to terrorists that U.S. policy demands, i.e., to hunt down and kill terrorists.

“Land for peace,” including a Palestinian state carved out of Israel, will not end terrorism against Israeli citizens. The terrorists themselves have said so. There’s no need to look at the “root causes” of terrorism. These people seek Israel’s annihilation. Why, then, does Powell persist in this charade?

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