Thursday, March 4, 2004

Sen. John Kerry’s penchant for taking contradictory positions on important issues is extraordinary. He has voted to authorize the use of force against Iraq, yet he opposed legislation to provide the money to pay for the rebuilding of the country. He voted for NAFTA, yet he has continually poor-mouthed free trade. He voted for the Patriot Act, yet he now claims that the measure violates civil liberties. It also turns out that Mr. Kerry has been playing the same kind of semantic game over the security fence Israel has been building to prevent terrorist attacks.

In an October speech to the Arab American Institute in Michigan, Mr. Kerry depicted the barrier as an impediment to peace. “I know how disheartened Palestinians are by the decision to build the barrier off the Green Line — cutting deep into Palestinian areas,” the Massachusetts Democrat declared. “We don’t need another barrier to peace. Provocative and counterproductive measures only harm Israelis’ security over the long term, increase the hardships to the Palestinian people, and make the process of negotiating an eventual settlement that much harder.”

After supporters of Israel objected that Mr. Kerry had given Israel’s legitimate security concerns short shrift, the senator’s spin team went into action. Sources inside the Kerry campaign told the Jerusalem Post last week that Mr. Kerry’s real objection was to the route of the fence. According to the Kerry spokesmen, he only objected to the fact that the barrier deviates from the Green Line —Israel’s pre-1967 border with the West Bank.

In fact, it would be difficult to imagine a more disingenuous explanation. There is nothing sacred about the Green Line — the Armistice Line created following the 1948-49 war, in which the new state of Israel was attacked by five of its Arab neighbors. Were Israel to have put the fence right on the Green Line, as Mr. Kerry suggests, it would have represented a capitulation to one of the minimum demands of the terrorists who have been attacking Israel since the current war began on Sept. 29, 2000: a return to the virtually indefensible pre-1967 lines.

Ever since the October speech, Mr. Kerry has gone to great lengths to show that he isn’t really dismissive of Israel’s legitimate security concerns. He now describes the barrier as a “legitimate act of self defense.” On Sunday, Mr. Kerry brought the new, pro-Israel spin to a group of Jewish leaders in New York. Some bought it, but others sound decidedly wary. Mr. Kerry’s politics of spin may finally be catching up with him.

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