- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 26, 2002

In 1987, a president of the United States confronted a great evil and found a simple, yet powerful, way to call symbolically for its undoing.

Ronald Reagan over the adamant and determined objections of his experts in the State Department used the backdrop of Cold War Berlin's barricaded Brandenburg Gate to call on the then-leader of the Soviet Union to put an end to the "Evil Empire." As he put it on that occasion, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." The rest, as they say, is history.

Today, President Bush has an opportunity to sound a similar clarion call as he confronts an evil to which he is no less passionately opposed than was Mr. Reagan to communist totalitarianism: the determination of many in the Arab world to pursue the complete destruction of the State of Israel.

Over the next few days, Mr. Bush may order Vice President Dick Cheney to return to the Middle East, in the hope of giving a fresh impetus to efforts to achieve a genuine peace between the Jewish State and her foes.

If so, it will be on the basis of evidence not discernable at this writing indicating that Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Yasser Arafat has, at last, taken steps to exercise control over terrorists operating from areas for which he is responsible. And it will be with an eye toward the Arab League summit scheduled to convene in Beirut tomorrow and Thursday, where participants are expected to discuss a "vision of peace" being touted by Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah.

The Saudi "plan" reportedly would offer Israel full normalization of relations with the Arabs if the Jewish State will relinquish all the territory on the West Bank and Gaza Strip seized in the course of its defensive operations in the 1967 Six-Day War. Mr. Arafat has signaled his support for this formulation, as have a number of other Arab leaders.

Today's State Department experts think a majority of the Arab League states might endorse this initiative, creating a new basis for a permanent, regional settlement of this long-festering conflict. Some even hope that, in this fashion, the League may become if not actually favorably disposed toward then less stridently opposed to America's No. 1 Mideast priority: toppling Saddam Hussein.

Unfortunately, there is reason to believe the Arabs are no more serious about making a genuine peace with Israel at this juncture than they have been in the past. To the contrary, many in the Arab world and among the Palestinians in particular clearly believe the time is ripe to "liberate" not only the disputed territories captured by the Israelis in 1967, but all the land "occupied" by the Jews including all pre-1967 Israel. They sense that, as in Lebanon, their violence is paying off, driving the Jewish "crusaders" off disputed land and driving a wedge between Israel and her most important ally, the United States.

This was the goal of Mr. Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization when it was established in 1964 that is, before Israel had "occupied" any territory on the West Bank or Gaza. And so it remains today. However, in the wake of the Arab armies' 1973 defeat the last time they tried to destroy Israel, the PLO decided that the ultimate objective would have to be achieved in stages. This approach was formally adopted in 1974 and became known as the "Plan of Phases": In the first phase, Israel would be compelled to relinquish territory that could be used subsequently to drive the Jews into the sea.

The unwavering commitment to this goal has long been reflected in a map of "Palestine" widely used by the Palestinians and other Arabs. In it, Palestine consists of not only all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but all of pre-1967 Israel, as well. Accordingly, there is no Israel at all on the maps used in Mr. Arafat's offices, on the uniforms of his paramilitary "police" or on the Web site of the Palestinian National Authority and its agencies.

Most insidious, perhaps, is this map's repeated appearance in the textbooks with which the next generation of Palestinian schoolchildren are taught to think about their birthright and shaped in their expectations about a future homeland.

A halfhearted effort has lately been made to claim this map as a depiction of an historical nation known as Palestine. This is a fabrication. In his recently re-issued and authoritative work, "Islam in History," Bernard Lewis one of the most eminent scholars of Mideast history makes clear that there has never been a Palestine with the boundaries shown on Mr. Arafat's map.

Under these circumstances, Israel is fully within its rights to resist appeals to surrender land its enemies have used in the past to try to destroy the Jewish State. Indeed, it would be the height of folly and possibly state-icidal to do otherwise. Neither Israelis nor Americans whose national interest is served by having a strong, secure and self-reliant democratic ally in the Middle East can responsibly ignore this reality.

Consequently, if President Bush wishes to play a constructive role at this difficult moment in the Mideast, he must insist that Israel's adversaries stop paying lip-service in English to their desire for peace while cultivating the intolerance and destructive propensities that endanger our ally and preclude it from safely considering further territorial or other concessions. A good place to start would be by issuing a call much as Ronald Reagan did a generation ago: "Mr. Arafat: Renounce this map" and ensure that neither the Palestinian Authority nor its friends any longer use such representations to describe an end-game for the so-called "peace process" with which Israel literally cannot live.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is the president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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