Tuesday, May 22, 2001

Last week the Israeli-Palestinian conflict witnessed the highest escalation of Palestinian terror and Israeli responsesince the beginning of the Intifada eight months ago.
Yasser Arafat is in charge of terror and so is his organization, the Palestine Liberation Organization. He was never a true partner for peace with Israel, and he is clearly demonstrating it now. He rides the chariot of war toward Palestinian independence and praying at Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount. The Oslo process is dead, and its death is clearly Mr. Arafats doing. The late former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin agreed to equip the Palestinian police only with pistols. Oslo was flagrantly violated by Mr. Arafat who created an army of 35,000 so-called policemen now armed with mortars and heavy equipment to terrorize Israel.
As predicted by many, Mr. Arafat has escalated the war with the hope of getting the Americans involved. The Mitchell Commission calls for evenhandedness between the parties, thereby lifting Mr. Arafat from his ignominious isolation into a partnership with the United States.
The commission was set up only for purposes of investigating the causes of the recent conflict. Its recommendations were never intended to be a basis for policy. It called for the end of Palestinian violence and for the Israelis to freeze the growth of the settlements. It is very unfortunate that Secretary of State Colin Powell considers the commission recommendation a benchmark for negotiations.
Like hundreds of other commissions since the establishment of the State of Israel and before, this one has not achieved its purpose. It should be clear in the minds of the striped-pants diplomats and Arabists of the Department of State who now dominate the Bush administrations Middle East policy, that if they examine the various commissions carefully they will find that after each commissions recommendations, there was not only no implementation of their recommendations but also an escalation of violence.
It is curious that, while President Bush courageously and correctly calls for the end of violence and terror, his secretary of state and his minions contradict those intentions. Once you relinquish your policy to Foggy Bottom diplomats, you can rest assured that the chicaneries of Arafat and Co. will overwhelm these “well reasoned” diplomats.
If the Mitchell Commission is given the imprimatur, it certainly does not promise the end of violence, but rather the legitimization of Yasser Arafat the terrorist, who is not interested in a cease-fire. Diplomats should be aware that Mr. Arafat has no intention of ending the violence and that any American contact with him, like the planned meeting with Mr. Powell in Geneva, will only embolden his purposes. Mr. Arafat and the Palestinian Authority have declared war not Israel as the propagandists imply in their mission of deception.
The commission recommends a package deal, i.e. end of violence and settlements, but who will be the first to make concessions? The Sharon government has said it will not negotiate under fire. The Palestinians, with the help of the commission and the European Union (proven to be a party to Palestinian purposes), have used the settlements as an obstacle to peace.
But Israeli settlements were not an issue in 1993 when the Oslo Agreement was made. It was understood clearly that once confidence-building measures took place, a territorial arrangement would be made between Israel and the Palestinians. Having lost their diplomatic battle at Camp David and having no other recourse to justify their violence, the Palestinians once again came up with the Israeli settlement policy as a way to justify their violence and terrorism.
It is not surprising that the commission has accepted the standing American position against the settlements. Thus, the much-touted “balance” in the commissions recommendations is no benchmark for settlement of the most pernicious issues in the relationship between the two parties.
There is no balance in politics. This is utter nonsense. It is surprising that politicians on the commission have recommended such an unrealistic, unworkable solution to the impasse. The only “balance” that will emerge from the commission, will be the return of Mr. Arafat to the White House, which is all he has in mind, as a palliative toward his relentless pursuit of his revolutionary war of independence.
For Mr. Arafat and the Arab States it is quite convenient to discuss that part of the commissions recommendations that was favorable to them. They believe, and rightly so, they can garner American and European Union support for the freeze of settlements, since all these parties have been opposed to Israeli settlements since they began after 1967. Acceptance of the commission recommendations gives a platform to Mr. Arafat and his propagandists to portray Israel as a rejectionist, warmongering state that is going to war against the “innocent” Palestinians. This is the only reason they embraced the Mitchell Commission recommendations. This gives Mr. Arafat the means to use the settlements once again as an excuse to continue his war.
As for Israel, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres has indicated his acceptance of the commissions recommendations. This, despite the fact that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon rejected them. It is now necessary for Israel to outflank Mr. Arafats political and diplomatic tactics by playing the Arafat game of accepting the recommendations but calling for specific modifications that, for all intents and purposes, will nullify them.
Both parties will use the commission for propaganda purposes, but neither party will follow the recommendations. A brilliant Israeli diplomacy is to steal the platform from Mr. Arafat by “accepting” the recommendations while actually rejecting them with diplomatic and legal tactics. This would knock out the EU “peace lovers” led by the anti-American French. Israel must make it clear that it accepts the commission on the basis of the end of violence first.
We live in an age of a pro-Arab CNN with one-sided dishonest reporting. Israel must muzzle the anti-Israeli media and throw the ball back into the lap of the European Union by “accepting” the commission recommendations. International politics are conducted by the media in todays world. Israel must win this war.

Amos Perlmutter is a professor of political science and sociology at American University and editor of the Journal of Strategic Studies.

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