- The Washington Times - Monday, November 15, 2004

You have to hand it to the Palestinians. They have gotten away with fabricating a nationality where none existed prior to Yasser Arafat’s terrorism-backed strutting on the world stage. They have enjoyed global successes in staking historical claims to territory that clearly post-dated those of the Jews.

Now, notwithstanding the fact that they and other Arabs have waged war against Israel incessantly — via both conventional and unconventional means — ever since the modern Jewish state was founded in 1948, they have obtained the support of even President Bush for the ultimate reward: a sovereign state of Palestine.

Unfortunately, there is every reason to believe that such an entity will amount to something Mr. Bush would never knowingly countenance, let alone support — the creation of yet another state-sponsor of terror.

To be sure, the president has qualified his readiness to endorse a Palestinian state — and even to expend political capital over the next four years to bring it about — on the premise that such an entity will be democratic and willing to live in peace with its neighbors.

Yet, thanks to certain realities of the Palestinian proto-polity, and the Arab world more generally, the president will surely be confounded in his hope that elections scheduled for next January will result in the elevation of a new leadership more inclined to create a durable peace with Israel than was Mr. Arafat. Consider the following:

c The Palestinian Arab community has been subjected for three generations to the most coercive and hateful mass indoctrination known outside of North Korea. While there are surely Palestinians willing to live side-by-side in peace with Israel, they know that to say so publicly is to invite swift retaliation, if not summary execution as a collaborator with the Jewish state. As a result, the party line of victimhood, alienation and rejectionism is universally touted and will dominate any election, even a fair one.

c Under Mr. Arafat, that party line translated into an insistence that all of “Palestine” — that is, Israel as well as the West Bank and Gaza Strip — must be “liberated.” The corollary is that any sacrifice is justified, a gambit used to justify inflicting endemic corruption, a self-destructive intifada, political repression and wholesale economic decline on the Palestinian people.

Then, as Saudi Arabia supplanted the Kremlin in the role of chief foreign sponsor of Palestinian terror, an Islamist overlay developed. The result was to add a full-fledged “culture of death” to Mr. Arafat’s poisonous brainwashing. Hence, the spectacle of mothers and even children declaring their desire to kill themselves in order to bring about a Palestinian state on the ashes of Israel.

c All of the leading candidates to replace Mr. Arafat have blood on their hands. This is true of the so-called “moderates,” be they of the “old guard” (notably such Arafat lieutenants as Mahmoud Abbas and Ahmed Qureia) or the “young guard” (for example, incipient warlords like Mohammed Dahlan and Jibril Rajoub). It is, of course, equally true of what are left of the leaders of Islamist organizations like Hamas and the nominally “secular” Marwan Barghouti. The latter is said to be the most popular Palestinian politician at the moment, a status that may have something to do with the fact that he is currently imprisoned for life in Israel for his role in the murder of five Israelis.

These realities are currently permitting cynical Palestinians to calculate that they can advance their abiding “liberation” agenda by exploiting President Bush’s laudable commitment to democracy. At this writing, they are citing the need to advance elections as a means of achieving the same objectives that Mr. Arafat long sought: the removal of all Israeli military forces from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, an end to Israel’s targeted killings of terrorist leaders, the freeing of terrorists held by Israel and the insertion of foreign monitors and/or troops between Israelis and Palestinians. As in Lebanon, such foreigners can be counted on to provide no protection from attacks on the former — while impeding Israeli preemptive action against the latter that might prevent such strikes, or even retaliation in their aftermath.

If past experience is any guide, such steps will not conduce to useful elections, let alone peace between Palestine’s Jews and Arabs. Rather, if indulged in the absence of genuine democratic institution-building and socialization in the practice of representative government that is respectful of minority rights, they will produce Palestinian elections that amount to little more than one-man, one-vote, one-time. And, under present circumstances, that vote will go to someone who will remain committed to an objective clearly not in America’s interests: the establishment of a state sponsor of terror and the destruction of the state of Israel.

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

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