- The Washington Times - Monday, April 2, 2001

Saddam Hussein delivered the message to his fellow Arab statesmen meeting in Jordan as his final word to them: "May God damn the Jews." He had already told them how he would help God Iraq was ready to capture Israel for the Palestinian Arabs with an army that had one end in Baghdad and the other facing the criminal Zionists and "making their blood run cold."

Not one of the leaders of the other 20 Arab nations assembled said a word in criticism about Saddam´s blasphemous viciousness or his open threat of invasion and destruction of Israel. Nor did Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations, who was at the meeting.

Instead, Mr. Annan spoke in justification of the criticism of Israel for defending itself "excessively" harshly against the Arab rebellion against Israel, inside Israel. At the time he was delivering his loaded homily, three more Israeli Jews were living their last few hours before being blown apart by terrorist bombs.

The only other words from Mr. Annan that will live in the history of the U.N. came when he returned from an earlier trip to Baghdad praising the flexibility of Saddam Hussein and announcing he "could do business" with him. Then Saddam kicked all the U.N. inspectors out of Iraq. And now the nations of the world, bolstered by praise from officials of the Clintonian era, are prepared to make Mr. Annan secretary-general for another five-year term, unless the Bush administration pulls itself up to veto, which is not wildly likely.

But the importance of the Amman meeting was not that it gave us another glimpse of the secretary-general choosing sides, but it provided us an important look at the mind of the Arab leaders and of the terrorists they sustain with money, arms and hatred of Israel.

Everyone at the table knew Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had been holding back retaliation against terrorism in Israel, to see whether the Arab meeting would give sign that the leaders took him seriously when he said the Arabs had to choose between continued violence against Israel or talks with Israel but could not have both.

They showed him and the world their reaction with Saddam´s curse of death to the Jewish people and the Israeli nation, which was read out for him by his chief Iraqi diplomatic hit man. They showed with a statement by President Bashar Assad of Syria, so coddled in the West, for being modern and moderate. By electing Mr. Sharon, said Mr. Assad, Israel showed itself to be a "racist society, a society more racist than the Nazis."

They showed us by reopening their office in Damascus that had been assigned to plan boycotts of Israel, by officially commanding no new diplomatic ties with Israel and by painstakingly avoiding a single word against the terrorism designed to bring Israel down.

But the meeting and what it showed us were not a total loss; nothing that reminds us of the difference between wish and reality can be useless

For a half-century, most of the friends of Israel and Israelis themselves kept wishing, wishing, wishing that the Muslim states of the Middle East would accept them, stop raids and terrorism, and accept a permanent peace. After four decades of wishing and wishing, Israeli leaders in the Labor Party convinced themselves and many Israeli voters that the Arabs did want permanent peace, if they got the land to support an independent state. The Israelis gave them the land and status but did not get the peace.

One reason was shown clearly at Amman. The Israelis were facing not just Palestinians but the whole group of Arab nations. Long before Israel´s first day, Arab leaders had convinced their people that for the sake of religion and regional power they had to drive it into the sea.

Years of negotiation in the ´90s did create a self-governing Palestine, through continuous Israeli concessions. But decades of a day-after-day hate-the-Jew life, in the mosques, streets and schools had rooted so deep in the people of the Middle East that those leaders who might have considered permanent peace were afraid their thrones and lives would be lost to the people´s rage, if they gave Israel conditions it might be able to live with.

The leaders are trapped by the hatred they build around Israel, will not have courage to climb over it and there will be no permanent peace until some Arab generation overthrows them.

In the meantime, Israel has no option but to keep fighting the violence, not praying that God damn the Arabs, but stand reasonably sure that this time he will not turn his face from the Jews so long as they separate wish from reality.

A.M. Rosenthal is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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