After Annapolis

Date: 12-01-2007 | Category: Articles, Middle East

After Annapolis

The Washington Times
Ariel Cohen
December 1, 2007

This week’s Annapolis conference triumphantly launched final status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, with the proclaimed goal of establishing a Palestinian state within a year.

Unfortunately, with the necessary preparations on the part of the Palestinians and the Arab states for true peace nowhere in evidence, this latest iteration of the "peace process" is even less likely to succeed than its Camp David II predecessor was.

The Camp David II talks, launched in 2000 to ensure a historic legacy for then-President Bill Clinton, collapsed after Yasser Arafat could not take yes for an answer after receiving the most generous offers ever put on the table by Israel and the United States.

The current version of the "peace process" fails to deal with some key issues likely to derail it right around the time President Bush leaves office. These include the unresolved question: Who speaks for the Palestinians? Is it Prime Minister Salam Fayad, the pragmatic former World Bank official, who himself admits he cannot appear in the West Bank city of Jenin because he could be killed? Is it Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and his cronies from Tunis, who were voted out of office in favor of Hamas in the January 2006 parliamentary elections? Some say Hamas’ message of wiping Israel off the face of the Earth carried the day.

Are the Palestinians capable of delivering any commitments they undertake, when President Abbas’ own bodyguards were recently found to be planning to assassinate Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, his supposed "peace partner"? When Shin Beth, the Israeli security service, complained, the would-be murderers were arrested and then released shortly after as if all that was involved was a minor traffic violation.

Unfortunately, Fatah’s and Hamas’ actions have spoken much louder than the rhetoric of Annapolis. The ultimate aim of the competing Palestinian leaderships has not been a viable state. It has been to perpetrate a narrative of hatred and victimhood that prevents peace and statehood from taking root. In this, most Arab governments have used the Palestinians as pawns in their own 60-year effort to exhaust and ultimately eliminate Israel.

Even now, Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian spokesman, refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The PA also refuses to give up its demands that the 1948 refugees and their descendants go back to what is today Israel. In other words, they want to destroy Israel’s very nature.

During the second half of the last century, 200 million World War II and decolonization refugees were resettled: from Germany to Poland, from India to Pakistan. This includes 800,000 Jews forced from Arab lands and dispossessed in a bid to drown the newly formed State of Israel in refugees. But the Arab states have refused to give their Palestinian refugee brothers citizenship, keeping them in refugee camps instead. They too are intent on perpetuating the problem — while no one demands that the oil-rich countries resettle the Palestinians.

To date, all Palestinian factions have refused to recognize the most existential facts about their Jewish neighbors. For example, they reject the existence of two Jewish Temples on the Temple Mount, which their religious authority now controls. Instead, they have tried to excavate and destroy every shard of archeological evidence from that sacred site, and are demanding full sovereignty over the Temple Mount, including the Western Wall. The Saudi delegation in Annapolis refused to shake Israeli hands. They refuse to recognize the most basic notion of "the other," without which recognition there can be no peace and photo ops are a waste of time.

When President Anwar Sadat and King Hussein of Jordan wanted peace with Israel, they took bold steps, like flying to Jerusalem and addressing the Knesset. Nothing of the kind took place in Annapolis.

Until the Arab rulers and people of the Middle East accept and embrace their Israeli cousins, there will be no peace. Until Palestinian leaders in Gaza and the West Bank stop their incitement to murder Jews — in their schools, mosques and electronic media — the "peace process" has no future. Instead, millions of Palestinians and others are being brainwashed to become the next generation of "shahids" — suicide murderers.

Until there is mutual respect, recognition and reconciliation, forcing territorial concessions upon Israel, "taking risks for peace," or dismantling Jewish villages will only bring more violence. Calls for loosening vital security arrangements in the West Bank and Gaza or for providing electricity, food and water to the Hamas missile factories are counterproductive — no matter how humanitarian they sound.

It is also myopic to concentrate on the Arab-Israeli conflict, that cemetery of diplomacy, while ignoring the threats from Iran, from Hezbollah and from al Qaeda. A nuclear Iran is a clear and present danger for the Arab Sunni regimes and to the world at large, as it is trying to dominate the Persian Gulf — the world’s oil depot. Pushing Israel to make more and more concessions to entice Arab countries to help the U.S. in Iraq or to build the coalition against Iran will simply not work.

Creating a Palestinian state today is the wrong answer to the real Middle East threats. Given the current mindset, it will lack any institutions save those of terror, and will be hell-bent on destroying Israel.

Hamas may quickly overthrow what remains of Abu Mazen’s rule, and would threaten not only Israel, but Jordan; while Iran would be free to relaunch Hezbollah attacks against Israel and take over Lebanon, together with its Syrian allies.

Even if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was resolved tomorrow, it would not eliminate the very deep divisions in the Muslim world. If Israel disappeared today, America’s problems in the Middle East, rooted in jihadi hatreds and lucrative ties to stagnant and corrupt regimes, would not disappear with it.

Another failed attempt at finding instant solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is against U.S. interests and is the equivalent of giving oneself a black eye. Or shooting oneself in the foot.

Ariel Cohen is senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation.

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