- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 18, 2002

In the months that have followed the murderous attacks launched on September 11, President Bush has repeatedly, and correctly, emphasized that the war on terror must be fought both at home and abroad. He has recently underscored his determination to make advances on these two fronts by creating a real capability for homeland defense and by adopting, where necessary, pre-emptive measures against our enemies overseas.

Unfortunately, Mr. Bush's efforts on the home front and abroad are in danger of being significantly undermined by actions expected to occur this week.

Damage may be done here at home on June 28, when FBI Director Robert Mueller is scheduled to address the annual convention of the American Muslim Council (AMC). He is evidently doing so because as Mr. Mueller's spokesman put it last week the FBI believes the AMC to be "the most mainstream Muslim group in the United States."

Talk about intelligence failures. As Steven Emerson, one of the nation's foremost authorities on Islamist organizations and their activities in the United States, has noted in his new book "American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us,": "The AMC is a founder, corporate parent and supporter of several militant Islamic groups." In particular, Mr. Mueller should be aware that, in Mr. Emerson's words, "The AMC has routinely featured or honored Islamic militants or supporters of terrorism at its annual conferences."

Mr. Emerson quotes a former AMC president and board of directors chairman, Nazir Khaja, as saying: "No one in the organization really knows where the funds for AMC are coming from, how are they being raised and spent, and who is controlling the whole process." Mr. Khaja suggests the man in control is the AMC's secretary, Abdulrahman al-Amoudi, an individual who publically declared in October 2000 that he is a supporter of both Hamas and Hezbollah.

Arguably worst of all, confusing organizations like the AMC with "mainstream" Muslims let alone dignifying the former by affording them repeated access not only to the FBI director but to the president and his Cabinet serves to legitimate the radicals while disenfranchising those who genuinely adhere to moderate Islamic teachings. Why would the FBI want in this way to advance the AMC agenda, which Mr. Emerson says includes "aggressively attack[ing] Sheikh Muhammed Hisham Kabbani, a leading moderate voice in the American Muslim community"?

With respect to the war on terror overseas, President Bush himself is being encouraged to unveil this week an initiative that will likely prove even more problematic than the Mueller outreach to the AMC. Some expect Mr. Bush to endorse a new U.S. Mideast peace plan built around the idea of a "provisional" Palestinian state. While it is unclear exactly what the term "provisional" would mean in this context, its implications are unmistakeable:

(1) Despite well-deserved castigation of Yasser Arafat's kleptocracy by the president and, most recently, by his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, under present circumstances any interim state would, as a practical matter, have to be built on the foundation of Mr. Arafat's Palestinian Authority (PA). The growing chorus of calls for real "reform" in the PA would be undermined. Mr. Arafat would be rewarded yet again for his misconduct. And terrorist violence against Israel would continue to be seen as producing results an inducement for more terrorism.

(2) To the extent any geographic dimensions of this "provisional state" are recognized (and that would appear the bare minimum such recognition would require), Israel's efforts to defend itself against terror emanating from Palestinian-controlled areas a right President Bush has repeatedly affirmed would inevitably be, to put it mildly, complicated: Should Israel have to traverse internationally recognized borders to root out terrorist infrastructures, it would risk not only virulent foreign condemnation but the creation of a casus belli with the Arab world.

(3) The danger of such a war will only grow insofar as there is seen to be significant daylight between the United States and Israel. Since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has already rejected the "provisional state" idea (as have Palestinian spokesmen), a Bush initiative along these lines will appear, at best a nonstarter; at worst, it will reignite hopes among the Arabs that their ambition to destroy Israel may yet be achievable if the Jewish State becomes estranged from the U.S.

In this regard it is instructive to recall what Mr. Arafat told Jordanian television on Sept. 13, 1993, the same day he signed the Oslo accord on the lawn of White House: "Since we cannot defeat Israel in war, we do this in stages. We take any and every territory that we can of Palestine, and establish a sovereignty there, and we use it as a springboard to take more. When the time comes, we can get the Arab nations to join us for the final blow against Israel."

The Bush administration need not inflict such reverses upon its own war efforts at home and abroad. After all, Mr. Mueller can simply cancel his ill-advised appearance at the American Muslim Council convention.

He should nonetheless ensure that there is an FBI presence there albeit for the purpose of putting under surveillance what promises largely to be yet another AMC event sympathetic to those who are our Islamist enemies in the war on terror.

For his part, Mr. Bush should eschew seductive appeals to reward terrorists in the Middle East by embracing even more of a proto-Palestinian state than Mr. Arafat has ruled since 1993. He can, instead insist as Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle suggested on Sunday on "regime change" in the Palestinian Authority as well as Iraq, establishing such a step along with democratic institution-building and other reforms as preconditions to further progress toward creation of a Palestinian state with whom Israel, and the rest of us, can safely live.


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