Politics & Policy

The Real Debate Begins

Israel gets serious. U.S. will soon.

Ten years after Oslo, the real debate in Israel has finally begun, and it’s not between the two sides described in the U.S. media: Those who want to expel Arafat, and those who want to kill him. The real debate is between Israelis who still believe that getting rid of Arafat will make peace possible — as the Jerusalem Post argued when it called for killing him in its now-famous editorial of September 10 — and the growing majority of Israelis who say what Michael Freund, Bibi Netanyahu’s old communications man said in an op-ed in the same paper on the same day:

…our leaders still don’t get it. They now talk about expelling Arafat but leaving the Palestinian Authority in place, as though installing a new Godfather will make the Mafia less of a criminal organization. They still don’t realize that the problem is not just Arafat or Abu Mazen or Abu Whoever; it is the existence of the Palestinian Authority itself, which is little more than a hothouse for terror, corruption and bloodshed.

Freund and a minority of others in Israel and America understood these facts all along, because Palestinian leaders made it plain all along, in Arabic: There are no Palestinian leaders who want peace. There never were. Oslo was a sucker’s game from the start, a tactic in what Israeli scholar Joel Fishman calls a Viet Cong style “People’s War,” and the Palestinian Authority is what it has always been: A terrorist organization at war with Israel and the West, willing to settle for nothing less than total victory, starting with Israel’s total destruction. Thus, it’s not just Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and al Qaeda that must be destroyed for Israel to survive and for America to win the broader war on terror: It’s the PA itself, and with it, the ultimate Israeli & American Left-lemmings fantasy, the idea that a Palestinian state would ever be anything other than a terror state.

Aside from the fascinating Viet Cong connection that Fishman documents, none of these facts are new. What is new is that after sustaining more casualties in a decade of declared peace than they did in any of their declared wars, a growing majority of Israelis now see the facts clearly, want their leaders to acknowledge them openly, and act on them decisively. Is Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon part of this new, clear-eyed majority? A late convert to the statehood-for-Palestine camp, Sharon has proven himself as stubborn a warrior in the quest for peace as he was in the quest for victory in past wars, but if the New York Post’s Uri Dan is to be believed, Michael Freund is unduly pessimistic about Israel’s leaders. Even Sharon now sees that only victory can bring peace. Dan is a longtime friend and confidante of Israel’s prime minister, and in the Israeli newspaper Maariv on September 11, after returning from India with Sharon in the wake of the two horrendous suicide bombings of September 9, Dan wrote: “…in India, the State of Palestine was buried.” The latest wave of Palestinian terror has convinced the prime minister that: “the Palestinian leadership will not get to see a Palestinian state — at least not in this generation. The chance that they were given has expired.” The PA “must disappear from the map.”

In America, the debate is similar, but at an earlier stage. Our equivalent of Israel’s Labor party — the Dean Democrats — haven’t yet been reduced to a fringe party, polling less than 20 percent in the last election as the Laborites did, but if President Bush continues to lead as boldly as he has heretofore, they soon will be. The geographically challenged Dr. Dean argues that it was a great mistake for America to liberate Iraq: We should “focus on the Middle East instead,” he says, and “be more even-handed.” In Dean’s eyes, Iraq never had any connection to terrorism until we drove the Iraqi people into bin Laden’s arms, creating rage and despair by invading their country and toppling their homegrown leaders. Creating a free and peaceful Iraq under American auspices is a lost cause, as Dean sees it, because the Iraqi people hate us, and want us out. Conversely, those nice, friendly Palestinians are eager to establish a peaceful, democratic state, and would do so tomorrow, if only we forced the Israelis to “give up all those settlements.” Dr. Dean’s prescription is to retreat from Iraq, turning the country over to those omnicompetent folks at the U.N., and focus all our energies on “the peace process,” as Bill Clinton did.

It’s a prescription for America’s defeat, but the Dean Democrats defeat is not yet a done deal, because they do have some advantages. They have the enthusiastic support of America’s Left Coast academics, amplified by a media chorus, and they have bipartisan support from sectors of our State Department, old Europe, U.N. groupies in Congress, and a collection of well-paid Saudi apologists leftover from the failed Clinton and Bush 41 administrations. Given the declining but still potent power of this motley crew, these advantages are nothing to sneeze at, yet. But Dr. Dean and his friends face three great obstacles, in addition to George W. Bush: The American people, the Iraqi people, and the Palestinian people. Just look at the polls.

For starters, the American people not only believe that Iraq was a terrorist haven before the war, 70 percent of them believe that Saddam Hussein played a role in the tragedy of September 11 and, smug press-certainties to the contrary notwithstanding, genuine Iraq experts like Laurie Mylroie say they are right. Average Americans are, understandably, somewhat anxious about the situation in Iraq during this difficult, transition phase, but they aren’t likely to share the Deanies enthusiasm for seeking salvation from the U.N. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted August 25-26 found that 60 percent of Americans rate the job the U.N. is doing as “poor,” the highest negative rating Gallup has recorded since it began asking Americans about the U.N. 50years ago. And, despite the constant drumbeat of defeatism in the press, solid majorities still think over-throwing Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do. All the pro-Palestinian shilling hasn’t converted ordinary Americans to their cause either: Only a minority think the Palestinians really want peace.

As for the Iraqi people, we finally have some solid data on their opinions from the first nationally representative sample ever polled there, thanks to American Enterprise’s Karl Zinsmeister and Zogby International. The Z-team interviewed Iraqis in four cities in August: Shiite dominated Basra in the south, Kurdish dominated Kirkuk in the north, Sunni dominated Ramadi in the Baathist resistance triangle, and mixed-bag Mosul in the far north. They found that those obstinate Iraqis simply refuse to conform to the trendy, politically correct stereotypes about authentic native world views that Dean and company are peddling. Iraqis have not been driven to despair and terrorism by war and occupation — 70 percent express optimism about the future — and, except in the Sunni triangle, lopsided majorities express negative or very negative views of Osama bin Laden. Sixty percent of Iraqis don’t want an Islamic government of any stripe, a percentage that rises to 66 percent among the allegedly fanatic Shiite majority. Best of all, most Iraqis don’t hate us and want us out, post haste. Some think we should leave after another six months, but many more think we should stay for a year or longer. Iraqis do however, hate the Baathist thugs who ruled them before the liberation — 74 percent don’t want to let bygones be bygone. They want to see Saddam’s henchmen punished. Of course, not all the news is good: Five out of ten Iraqis say democracy is a Western thing and won’t work in their country, but people under the age of 30 are more hopeful, and women are too. All things considered, if George W. Bush can beat back the defeatists at home and convince the American people to stay the course, the odds that the Iraqi people will create a relatively free and peaceful state for themselves in a year or two look pretty good.

Data from a poll of the Palestinian people, also taken in August, show why the odds on achieving anything like a comparable success with a Palestinian state are virtually nil. Palestinians, too, are ruled by gangs of despotic, terrorist thugs, but unlike the Iraqis, the average Palestinian doesn’t hate his home-grown oppressors. He admires them inordinately, and identifies with them with a sick passion. Asked whether there should be more terrorist attacks, 60 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza said yes; asked whether the Palestinian Authority should arrest Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists, 88.8 percent said no. The upshot is that when Howard Dean and his domestic look-alikes join with the roadmap’s U.N. and EU sponsors, pressing George W. Bush to quit trying to create a peaceful Iraqi state and to redouble his efforts to create a peaceful Palestinian state in-stead, he can tell them, in all honesty, that America cannot create peaceful states. We can only offer people the chance to do that for themselves. We made that offer to the Iraqi people and to the Palestinian people. The Iraqi people accepted our offer, and we won’t desert them now. The Palestinian people rejected it, over and over again, for ten long, bloody years, and now, it’s time to take that offer off the table.

Barbara Lerner is a freelance writer in Chicago who spent a month in Israel earlier this year.


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