- The Washington Times - Monday, June 12, 2000

It is just beginning. The pressure will now increase for Israel to risk its very existence. The purpose will be to force the Israelis to agree to the creation of a new country that would have a deep political, religious and national drive to expand over the years into all of Israel. Few countries have been asked to do that risk nationhood by carving out a piece of territory and handing it to an enemy without a fight. Not many nations return from the graveyard of surrender.

I wrote those sentence almost 10 years ago. Now I read them with a sickening lurch of understanding that with the growth of Islam, even fewer people in the world care about Israel's security. At least as many Muslims as ever would be delighted at Israel's demise and long to speed it. They believe that the withering of spirit that can precede death of a small nation is visible on Israel's face.

Why are so many friends of Israel as fearful of Israel's future as its enemies are gleeful? How did it get to this point, Israel of the tested strong army, nuclear-armed; Israel with a computer economy whose youngsters keep producing new communication wizardry, the only Mideast country even approaching democracy; Israel with the most powerful friend in the world as an ally how?

And how did Prime Minister Ehud Barak and his intelligence agencies fail to muster enough common sense to realize that if Israel announced it was leaving Lebanon in six weeks, the Hezbollah would attack at once and force the Israeli army to run?

Suddenly, Mr. Barak is faced with a strong parliamentary challenge to his job. That will at least slow down the Clinton-Barak rush to get an agreement based on political concessions to Palestinians, at least a foothold in Jerusalem and the promise of more U.S. billions to both sides. More Israelis and Americans are coming to grasp that the combination of President Clinton and Prime Minister Barak is no longer good for peace with security, so let's dribble the ball until elections in the United States, Israel or both dissolve the team.

Israel's humiliation in Lebanon is making more Israelis and Americans examine other nasty realities.

One reality is that the Palestinians do not just want peace. They also want Israel before peace, during peace, after peace they want all of it. They did not hide it before the negotiations and they do not hide it now, except from those who cannot see.

From the beginning of the Palestine movement, the message was written clear and officially: Death to Israel, immediately or in phased political, economic and military warfare, but death. When the United States and Israel made repeal of the formal Palestinian death covenant against Israel a condition of talks, Palestinian leadership took years to say it's repealed with a huge wink at the Palestinian people.

Israel knew it was a mockery, to "repeal" decades of a death covenant deep in Palestinian fury, blood and terrorism without attempting to dissolve the hate that was its root. So on and on they go the vicious propaganda against Israel and Jews, the Holocaust-denial industry, the textbooks demonizing all Jews.

The death threat to Israel is built into Palestinians' very conditions for an agreement. They demand all of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) but would settle for, say, 90 percent.

Yasser Arafat includes control of militarily essential north-south roads, plus the Jordan River buffer zone separating Jordan and Israel and Jordan from Palestine.

Islam would not raise a gun to stop a Palestinian attack on Jordan, or the overthrow of its non-Palestinan monarchy by the country's heavily Palestinian population. Since 1967, Israel has protected the monarchy from Palestinians at home or across that buffer zone.

Palestinians demanded an army and already have 10,000 to 20,000 soldiers above their negotiated goal of 30,000. That is enough to arrest or kill Arafat opponents, but they are adding more to control returning Palestinians and selected foreign guerrillas.

Israel has not surrendered claim to Jerusalem but before the "final" talks signed away a couple of adjoining villages and permitted East Jerusalem to be encircled by Palestinian neighborhoods. Why Israeli governments, particularly the present one, gave in to U.S. pressure is easy to see. Washington is Israel's only major ally. Israeli officialdom wants its help but tends to fear its anger. Why most U.S. administrations pressure Israel is also no great mystery God's covenant with Jews gave Arabs the oil.

Mr. Clinton's Mideast policies are shaped by aides whose careers and egos are tied to the "Peace now" hope that Israeli concessions will buy a secure peace. They won't. Jews who want some tangible, traceable Palestinian concessions are invited to get lost. We won't.

A.M. Rosenthal is the former executive editor of the New York Times.

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