- The Washington Times - Monday, July 8, 2002

Picture this in three, four, five years:There is now a Palestinian state with everything a state has police and fire stations, a health department, schools and boards of education, newspapers and radio stations, shopping malls, a national legislature, mosques and an airport with two long runways capable of handling Boeing 767s, its own control tower located a short flying distance from the center of densely populated Tel Aviv.
Of course, there are agreed upon arrival and departure patterns for the Arafat Air Lines. No AAL plane may overfly Israeli territory without permission from the El Al traffic control tower.
And if it doesn't get permission and continues on its course to Tel Aviv, are Israeli jets allowed to shoot down the errant AAL plane no doubt full of innocent Palestinians?
As of now, Israel has only had to worry about suicide bombers on the ground. With a new sovereign Palestinian state, Israel's population of 6 million (1 million of whom are Arabs) would have a new worry suicide bombers in the air. Impossible?
On Oct. 31, 1999, Halloween morning, EgyptAir Flight 900 went down into the Atlantic Ocean 60 miles south of Nantucket. Thirty-seven minutes into the flight, EgyptAir 900 disappeared from the radar screen of the New York Center air controllers. Of the 217 people aboard the flight 100 were Americans, 89 Egyptians (including 33 army officers), 22 Canadians and a few people of other nationalities.
An Atlantic Monthly magazine article by William Langewiesche, a journalist-pilot, concluded that the crash was not caused, as Egypt claimed, by any mechanical failure of the giant twin-engine Boeing 767 but by the intentional act of a pilot. (The more than 800 Boeing 767s in the world's airline fleet account for more trans-Atlantic flights than all other airliners combined. They have a great safety record).
Since EgyptAir is government-owned, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak called the White House immediately after the crash and asked the United States to take over the investigation although Egypt had every right to do its own investigation.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), established in 1967 and boasting an admirable track record, took over. NTSB has one assignment: Investigate air accidents and issue safety recommendations and it did its job. It found that the crash had been caused by an EgyptAir pilot who, while alone in the cockpit, disengaged the autopilot, cut the engines and dove the giant plane into the ocean all the while muttering, as recorded by the recovered flight tape recorder,an Islamic prayer.
The pilot who brought EgyptAir 900 crashing down from 33,000 feet was Gameel al-Batouti, about to reach the mandatory retirement age of 60. He was the cruise-pilot who on the long transoceanic flight would relieve the co-pilot in the right hand seat. Batouti pressed the co-pilot to swap seats well ahead of the time for the scheduled crew change. The aircraft commander, Ahmad al-Habashi, excused himself for a visit to the bathroom leaving Batouti alone in the cockpit. The voice recorder has Batouti's voice softly speaking the Arabic phrase, "Tawakkalt ala Allah," or, "I rely on God." Then a whirring is heard: autopilot disengaged and again is heard: "Tawakkalt ala Allah." Then, according to the fight-data recorder, the death dive begins: The throttles are shoved back in one thrust to minimum idle which means the plane loses flying speed and lift and, a second later, the airplane's elevators, which control pitch, drop which means the tail goes up and the nose down.
"Apparently, Batouti," writes Mr. Langewiesche, "had chopped the power and pushed the control forward." Six times in quick succession Batouti repeats: "Tawakkalt ala Allah."
Capt. Habashi, making his way back from the toilet, is heard yelling: "What's happening? What's happening?" Batouti replies: "Tawakkalt ala Allah." The rate of descent has now reached 39,000 feet a minute. Batouti shuts off the fuel, killing both engines, and Capt. Habashi yells: "What is this? What is this? Did you shut the engines?" One hundred seconds later, it was all over 217 innocent people dead. Who knows or ever will know anything about Batouti's connections?
How would AAL guarantee that there are no Batoutis among future pilots or no terrorist gunmen like the 19 who seized four U.S. airliners on June 11, 2001, and wiped out the Twin Towers and some 2,000 innocent people?
President Bush knows that Yasser Arafat has subsidized the Aksa Martyrs Brigade, a terrorist organization, and we must assume other groups like Aksa. Even if Mr. Arafat now wants to stop suicide bombers on the ground and cannot, how is he going to guarantee safety of airline travel from the Arafat Airport in Arafat Airlines? Would Israel feel safe with a scheduled airline under Palestinian control? Would Israel feel safe with Iraqi, Syrian or Iranian airliners flying in and out of a Palestinian airport?
Am I being too super-cautious? Then let me ask whether we would clear an Arafat Airlines plane to fly into New York's JFK , Washington's Reagan National or Dulles International?
We know the catastrophic damage an airliner can do, let alone the damage even a small airplane can do as one did when it smashed into a Florida office building. In face of such events, is Israel going to accept a Palestinian airline? A survey of 1,179 Palestinians conducted last month by the Palestinian Jerusalem Media and Communications Center showed that over two-thirds of Palestinians favor suicide bombers against Israelis, and more than half of the respondents said the aim of the intifada is to wipe out Israel entirely.
What nobody wants to say aloud, including Shimon Peres and Hosni Mubarak, is that Arabdom wants the destruction of Israel forever, and therefore any real durable peace is out of the question. So long as there is a potentially prosperous, modern Israel in the Middle East, it endangers the continued existence of theocratic tyrannies like Saudi Arabia and Iran or Ba'ath dictatorships like Syria and Iraq. Expulsion of Israeli settlements in Gaza and West Bank are mincing first steps to driving Israel into the sea. That is why maps in Palestinian schoolrooms show Palestine only; there is no Israel. That is why the concept of peace in the Middle East is empty of meaning. Nevertheless, the show must go on.

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