Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Israel Can't Afford Any More Dangerous Concessions

From Wall Street Journal Europe MARCH 2, 2009 by TOM GROSS [my emphasis added - SL]:

Obama shouldn't push the Jewish state to give territory to terrorists.

... many influential people in America and beyond are clamoring for the Obama administration to pressure Israel into making major concessions. ...bear in mind the pain Israel suffered the last time it was forced to make such concessions -- when Mrs. Clinton's husband was president.

...thousands of Israelis -- both Jews and Arabs -- [were] injured by Palestinian suicide bombers who were sent out on their deadly missions by either the Islamist Hamas movement or the Fatah faction headed by "moderate" Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his predecessor Yasser Arafat. The number of Israelis killed in terror attacks [over 1,200 killed and 8,000 injured since 2000 - SL] has been greatly reduced in recent years after the government built a security fence to make it harder for bombers to get through.

... Barely a day goes by without Jimmy Carter and assorted European politicians calling on Mr. Obama to coerce Israel into hastily withdrawing from more land no matter the security risks. The reigning Nobel Peace Prize laureate, for instance, former Finnish Prime Minister Martti Ahtisaari, went so far as to use the prize ceremony as a soapbox to urge Mr. Obama to make pressure on Israel the principal focus of his first year in office.

... no one wants the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to be peaceably resolved more than Israelis do.

But Israelis are also very aware of the dangers of naively handing over territory to terrorists, as was done during the presidency of Secretary of State Clinton's husband, Bill Clinton, in the 1990s. The vote by Israelis in elections two weeks ago was not a vote against peace as many Western commentators claim. It was a vote for realism and security.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's likely next prime minister, has been wrongly vilified as being against a two-state solution. In fact he is open to the creation of a Palestinian state, but only if it is one that will live in peace with Israel. And for this, Mr. Netanyahu argues, you can't simply wave a magic wand at some fancy signing ceremony on the White House lawn and say "hey presto" -- which is exactly what politicians tried to do at the Oslo signing ceremony in 1993.

First the Palestinians need to do the hard work of building institutions that would allow such a state to succeed -- a functioning economy, the rule of law and so on. And Mr. Netanyahu is very willing to offer Israeli assistance in building such mechanisms.

Avigdor Lieberman, one of Mr. Netanyahu's possible coalition partners, who has been misleadingly described as an extreme rightist by many journalists, has been even more explicit than Mr. Netanyahu in calling for a two-state solution, including the division of Jerusalem between Israel and a future Palestinian state.

Even Shimon Peres, Israel's dovish president, now has second thoughts about unilateral Israeli concessions. Having long championed territorial withdrawals to attain peace, Mr. Peres last month acknowledged that it was a mistake for Israel to withdraw from Gaza in 2005 without first having a peaceful and democratic Palestinian party to hand that territory to.

Israel has always shown a willingness to make peace if a peace partner exists, as it did in the case of the late Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Jordan's King Hussein. Israelis are still waiting for a Palestinian Anwar Sadat.

One of Mr. Netanyahu's most difficult challenges during his first term as prime minister from 1996 to 1999 was coping with a Clinton administration that berated him for his belief that peace must be built from the bottom up through the liberalization of Palestinian society, rather than from the top down by giving land to terrorists. The question is whether President Obama and Hillary Clinton have come round to Mr. Netanyahu's way of thinking.

...Israeli concessions will never resolve the conflict in themselves. They will only work if there is corresponding pressure on the Palestinians to accept Israel's existence as a Jewish state and to make aid to the Palestinians conditional on putting an end to their inciting for the destruction of Israel.
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