The plight of Israelis today calls to mind the tongue-in-cheek prayer of Tevye, the hero of “Fiddler on the Roof” who, in light of his people’s suffering, asks the Almighty if someone else could be the chosen people for a while.
For years, the people of Israel have voted for leaders who promised to protect them against Arab neighbors bent on destroying the Jewish state and to eschew wooly-headed “peace processes” that advance their enemies’ goal. Yet, in turn Yitzhak Rabin, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak made a succession of concessions — most notably, legitimation of Yasser Arafat and his fellow terrorists as “partners for peace” that was at the core of the Oslo “process” — that have emboldened those who believe Israel will ultimately be dismantled and increased international demands for still more Israeli concessions.
Such pressure takes many forms. Foes like Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Syria disregard their obligations under U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, which, all too few remember, requires “termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.”
As Shoshana Bryen of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs noted recently, the Arabs and Iranians instead cynically insist that Israel must first find — and pay — a price acceptable to the Palestinians. They do so knowing full well that none among the latter could make peace with the Jewish state, even if they wanted to, so long as the region’s principal nations refuse to do so. These nations’ totalitarian regimes offer the same excuse to justify staving off domestic and foreign calls to engage in long-overdue political and economic liberalization.
The Europeans are no less insistent the responsibility for peace rests first and foremost with Israel. To be sure, leaders like Britain’s Tony Blair pay lip service to the need for an end to terrorism from the Palestinian quarter. Still, Europe seems determined to construe continued terrorism against Israel as an argument for demanding Israel swiftly resume negotiations with the Palestinians and concede the substantive points necessary to move them forward, rather than as legitimate grounds for refusing to re-enter the fraudulent “peace process.”
Then there is the United Nations. The organization’s domination by states hostile to Israel has made it a hotbed of agitation against the Jewish state from the get-go. While Zionism is no longer officially equated with racism by the United Nations, that sentiment remains much in evidence as Israel has been subjected to far more criticism and condemnatory resolutions than any other member state. Israel alone is ineligible for membership on the Security Council. And an organ of the “world body,” the International Court of Justice, has even ruled the Jewish state may not legally take measures to defend itself with a security barrier separating Israel and parts of the disputed West Bank where Jews live from terrorists bent on murder and destruction of property.
To their credit, President Bush and his administration have, to date, generally refrained from adding U.S. pressure on Israel to that emanating from other quarters. That may change, however. Mr. Blair is determined to be repaid for his loyalty on Iraq in the currency of “progress” toward peace in the Mideast. Best-selling author and former CIA official Michael Scheuer is among those pushing the line that U.S. support for Israel is the reason al Qaeda and other Islamofascist terrorists want to attack us. And last Sunday, former National Security Advisers Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brezinzski jointly declared that the opportunity created by Arafat’s death must be seized by the United States “imposing” a peace deal on Israel and the Palestinians — ignoring Winston Churchill’s sound advice against weakening a strategic ally.
Washington may not have to take such a misbegotten step, however, if — as has been the case to date — the present Israeli government decides to make concessions on its own. For some time, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has seemed more concerned with his place in history than in fulfilling the robust campaign security promises that won him the premiership.
Today, Mr. Sharon is rooting his claim to power in an embrace of Shimon Peres’ Labor Party, the principal apologist for the myriad failures of Oslo and other peace processes. He is unilaterally withdrawing from the Gaza Strip, a superficially appealing and politically popular cut-your-losses move that will, unfortunately, give rise to a new haven for terrorists there (witness Sunday’s attack). It will also compound the signal sent by Ehud Barak’s earlier, precipitous withdrawal from Lebanon, namely that Israel’s piecemeal destruction is inevitable. And Mr. Sharon is releasing terrorists and promising to pull Israeli forces from Palestinian communities as gestures to its electorate.
All this adds up to a grim forecast for the people of Israel. Their foes are implacable and being emboldened. Their “friends” at best encourage strategically dubious peace initiatives like the ill-conceived “road map”; at worst, they are part of the problem. And their leaders, both of the recent past and the present, seem intent on repeating, and compounding, past errors. Lovers of freedom can only hope all this does not add up to Tevye’s prayer being answered in the worst possible way.
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.