- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 14, 2001

George W. Bush may be physically vacationing in Texas but the prospect of a widening conflict in the Middle East means that he is likely to get little rest. Unfortunately, it will be Mr. Bush's presidency, not just his vacation plans, that will be powerfully disturbed if he responds to its first major foreign policy crisis by compounding the mistakes previously made in the region by American and Israeli "peace processors."
Ten months of terror inflicted by Yasser Arafat, his minions and allies and the Israeli retaliation they have provoked appear to have brought the Levant to the brink of a war involving not just Palestinians and Jews but other Arab states, as well.
Ominously, the Sunday Times of London reported on Aug. 12 that the Egyptian government is considering moving its 3rd Armored Army into the Sinai. Such an action could only be seen as a threat to Israel, made all the more serious because the infusion of some $45 billion in front-line American military equipment and training has substantially reduced — if not eliminated — the qualitative edge the Jewish State has traditionally enjoyed over its one-time foe's quantitatively larger forces.
At the same time, Israel's virulent enemies — like Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Ba'athist ruling clique in Syria, Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the still-unmoderated mullahs in charge of Iranian foreign and security policy — appear to be spoiling for a fight. They are evidently of a mind with not only Hamas and Islamic Jihad but the Palestinian leadership under Yasser Arafat, as well: The time has come to complete the job of destroying the State of Israel.
Of course, many of those American and Israeli "peace processors" — who did so much with their misplaced confidence in their "partner," Mr. Arafat, and his commitment to coexistence with Israel to contribute to the present crisis — refuse to see this reality. The Bush administration has lately joined them in insisting that Israel enter into further negotiations in order to arrange new cease-fire or other agreements aimed at defusing the crisis between the Palestinians and Israelis.
It is, therefore, a most timely moment to consider the latest in a series of pained renunciations by erstwhile champions of the so-called Oslo peace process. In an article published recently in the popular Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv (a translation of which was helpfully circulated on Aug. 12 by the Middle East Media Research Institute), a long-time member of the peace camp, Amnon Dankner, declares Oslo to have been nothing less than "the trap of one of the biggest scams in history."
Mr. Dankner says he now realizes that Mr. Arafat signed the Oslo accords "not in order to bring a resolution of two nations to two peoples, but in order to use this platform as a stage for an all out and prolonged struggle which will eventually bring Israel to a point of attrition, the breakdown of its society, and a Palestinian occupation of all the territory between the Jordan [river] and the Mediterranean."
In his Ma'ariv article, Mr. Dankner reserves some of his harshest criticism, however, for Israeli leaders of the peace movement. He notes ruefully that "When there were severe statements [coming from] the Palestinian side, which testified [to] the scam — including statements by Mr. Arafat — the Oslo supporters either ignored them or downplayed their significance, and by doing so actively contributed to the scam."
Mr. Dankner concludes with a grim net assessment: "It is fair to say that Oslo brought us to the brink of war rather than towards peace, and severely worsened our security, political, and international position… .The question that everyone must ask themselves today is: 'If you could return back in a time machine to 1993, would you support the Oslo agreement knowing what you know today?' Only a reminder: In 1993, the Intifada was wearing down almost to a point of a halt, Arafat was an international outcast, boycotted in the Arab world, and his power and influence hit an all-time low due to his support of Saddam Hussein, and he was in Tunis, subject to be transferred, with his headquarters, to Yemen. No one has yet heard of suicide bombings, and there are no regular armed Palestinian forces at a walking distance from Israeli towns and military bases. This was the situation ."
As President Bush considers his options, he must be mindful of the reality described so accurately, if painfully, by Amnon Dankner. He risks perpetuating, and greatly exacerbating, the dangers associated with "one of the biggest scams in history" if he allows his spokesmen to continue to pretend that Mr. Arafat is a man of peace.
Worse yet, if the Bush administration persists in treating with moral equivalence terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians and Israel's generally restrained defensive responses to such actions — the ineluctable effect of equally condemning these two very different things by characterizing them as part of "the cycle of violence" — it will convey a portentous impression: The United States is more interested in being an "honest broker" than Israel's ally. Taken together with the Jewish State's less defensible borders and its more tenuous security situation that are Oslo's principal legacy, Arab nations may be tempted once again to try the war option that has been effectively foreclosed since 1973. Such a step would make the "trap" of which Mr. Dankner speaks a mortal one for Israel, and a very costly one for the United States.

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