Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Bush administration’s policy toward Israel and the Palestinians increasingly seems like a reprise of the Oslo “peace process” pushed by the Clinton administration, which ended in disaster six years ago when Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Yasser Arafat rejected a two-state compromise solution and went to war with the Jewish state. Time and again from 1996 to 2000, the Clinton administration pressed Prime Ministers Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak to be more forthcoming with concessions to Arafat — a man who proved unwilling to make peace. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice now seems bent on propping up a new generation of failed Palestinian leadership — specifically PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

In an Oct. 11 speech to the American Task Force on Palestine in Washington, Miss Rice said that if “peace and dignity” are to prevail in the Middle East, it is essential for “moderate” Arab leaders like Mr. Abbas to be able to show that “their vision for the future can offer a better alternative than violence and terrorism.” She went on to call for the creation of a Palestinian state — likening it to the efforts of America’s Founding Fathers and the heroic leadership that enabled the country to survive the Civil War and defeat segregation and Jim Crow. “I, too, have a personal commitment to that goal because I believe that there could be no greater legacy for America than to help to bring into being a Palestinian state for a people who have suffered too long, who have been humiliated for two long,” she told the Palestinian group — which blames Israel for the absence of peace. “I promise you my personal commitment to that goal,” she declared.

To her credit, Miss Rice in her speech was also sharply critical of Hamas and Hezbollah, Arab rejectionist groups. Unfortunately, however, these comments were lost in a haze of feel-good platitudes that gloss over the responsibility that Mr. Abbas’s Fatah movement have for creating the current situation.

Since the mid-1990s, for example, the Europeans provided massive financial and political support for Arafat. The United States tried to train a Palestinian police force, only to see many of the police utilize the training to join terrorist militias targeting Israel. After Arafat died, the international Quartet sought to bolster subsequent Fatah regimes, without achieving any results. After Israel withdrew from Gaza last summer, arrangements negotiated with Egypt and the Europeans to police the border collapsed — the most egregious of which was the Nov. 15, 2005, deal Miss Rice pressed Prime Minister Ariel Sharon into accepting. Within weeks, Palestinian terrorists bulldozed a hole in the border fence, paving the way for unrestricted arms smuggling that continues to this day, and chased away the European observers.

It is a disservice to the Palestinians to continue to pretend that failed, bankrupt leaders like Mr. Abbas are part of the solution to their plight. In reality, they are part of the problem. It ill behooves America’s top diplomat to suggest that such people are latter-day versions of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King.

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