- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 27, 2000

''You want it bad, you'll get it bad." This adage certainly applies to the deal President Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak are determined to forge with the Palestinians in the next few months.

Toward this end, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will be in the region this week, trying to secure from Israel the concessions Yasser Arafat is demanding before he agrees to participate in a three-way summit with Messrs. Clinton and Barak an event where it is expected he will get the rest of his demands satisfied. Unfortunately, the "peace agreement" that may emerge from such transactions is unlikely either to be worthy of the name or conducive to a genuine, durable peace.

The extent of the Israeli concessions it will entail has become clear in recent days. According to the Israeli newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, they include the following: Palestinian control over Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem comparable to that the Palestinian Authority (PA) now exercises over much of the West Bank; the surrender of the entire strategic Jordan River valley to the PA; an "opaque formula that would satisfy the Arabs" on the return of refugees (which the U.S. official who leaked these details nonetheless claimed had "no practical meaning"); and $130 billion to $150 billion in aid from the United States and other countries over the next 20 years "with about 100 billion going to improve the plight of the millions of Palestinian refugees."

If this formula is, in fact, the position of the Israeli and U.S. governments and accepted by Mr. Arafat it will constitute not only the beginning of a new and dangerous Palestinian state. It will also be the beginning of the end for a secure and self-reliant Israel. For this reason, it would almost certainly be rejected by the people of Israel. Provided, that is, the Jewish State's democratic character is respected and its institutions and processes properly utilized.

Unfortunately, it is now increasingly clear Ehud Barak has no intention of conducting his peace diplomacy in such a manner. For the second time in a month, his interior minister the courageous former Russian dissident Natan Sharansky has written the prime minister warning against the deal now taking shape.

In a letter dated June 23, Mr. Sharansky decried the concessions Mr. Barak is poised to make and warned against the "clever strategy" the prime minister is apparently pursuing in order to "ensure the agreement's acceptance by the Israeli people." According to the former "refusenik," the strategy is designed to present a fait accompli to Mr. Barak's coalition partners (like Mr. Sharansky's party of Russian immigrants) who would oppose, for example, surrendering control over part of Jerusalem and the whole of the Jordan River valley to the Palestinians.

The clever strategy would work like this: First, coalition partners such as Mr. Sharansky would be induced to join Mr. Barak at the summit, assured that no deal had yet been done and that "any difference of opinion that will be found among us at the time of the summit will be addressed there." In practice, however, "under the glare of the cameras," there will be no opportunity to resolve fundamental differences that have riven Israelis for years (especially lately as the fruits of the "peace process" have proved increasingly elusive).

Mr. Sharansky observes that, once a deal is done, "the option to reject an agreement is unrealistic." It would "result in Israel finding herself in her most isolated international position since the founding of the State. The fear of this possibility will silence many of the agreement's opponents from voicing their opposition which perhaps is precisely what advocates of your current strategy are counting on."

Indeed, they are. And the Israeli government is almost certainly being urged to pursue this stratagem by the Clinton-Gore administration, which has repeatedly utilized such a gambit to commit the United States to international undertakings it knew were opposed by the Congress. (Examples include the Kyoto global warming treaty, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and new agreements limiting anti-missile defenses; several more are in the works now, notably a verification protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention and a START III Treaty making severe and ill-advised reductions in U.S. nuclear forces.)

As Minister Sharansky observes, "This is indeed a clever strategy. But it is not the way to deal with either coalition partners or with an Israeli electorate that has chosen you to lead them particularly not with an issue that may determine the fate of this country and the fate of the Jewish people in this generation and for many generations to come."

Just how real this dire prognosis is can be gleaned from several recent developments.

Last month, Mr. Arafat calculatedly unleashed his rabble and police in attacks on Israeli forces, citizens and property. This resort to violence is now widely understood to be a tool the Palestinian leader employs to extract more concessions from Israel and/or the United States. What makes anyone think he will refrain from doing so again if the "final status" agreement is anything less than everything he wants namely, the "liberation" of all of "Palestine," including pre-1967 Israel?

According to press reports, Israel is preparing to construct a fence that will seal off the Palestinian state Mr. Arafat on June 25 declared he could proclaim "within weeks." A fence is unlikely to prevent terrorist and other attacks from the territory Israel is relinquishing, but it does suggest how little confidence the Barak government has in the Palestinians as reliable "partners for peace."

Mr. Arafat's latest pronouncement and the response to it from Israel's most important Arab "partner for peace," Egypt can only intensify such concerns. As the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz noted in reporting on it: "In practical terms, a unilateral declaration of Palestinian independence would pose huge problems for both sides and likely spark widespread violence. Nonetheless, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak expressed his country's support for any future such declaration. 'If a Palestinian state is declared, we will recognize it irrespective of circumstances,' he said."

Israel relies upon the aquifers of the West Bank and the Golan Heights to provide it with roughly 70 percent of its water. The prospective surrender of these territories is all the more alarming in light of the fact that the Jewish State is facing, according to the BBC "one of its worst ever water shortages, with officials warning that urgent measures are needed to prevent an unprecedented crisis."

Natan Sharansky closed his most recent letter to Prime Minister Barak with the following eloquent appeal: "I call on you once again to stop your race toward a summit that is based on a 'clever strategy' for dealing with your coalition partners and with the Israeli public, and instead to go to a summit when you will enjoy the support of the people of Israel and when the vast majority of their representatives will be partners to the process. If you do this, I will be happy to work at your side to forge consensus and agreement within the nation. Unfortunately, if you continue on your present course, it will mean the end of the partnership between us."

Unfortunately,it may also mean the beginning of the end of the Jewish State, itself.

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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