The Perils of Engagement

[Wall Street Journal] Jeff Robbins - If history is any guide, next week's meeting in Annapolis will yield unsatisfactory results, Israel will be blamed for failing to make the requisite concessions, and the Bush administration will be criticized for its "failure to engage." The problem is that all too often, those who blame the U.S. for failing to deliver Mideast peace are some of the world's most culpable enablers of Mideast violence - and those who are themselves actually responsible for erecting the fundamental roadblocks to a resolution of the conflict. It was the Arab bloc, including the Palestinian leadership, that decided to reject the UN's 1947 partition of Palestine into two states, Arab and Jewish, living side by side. Instead it invaded the nascent Jewish state rather than coexist with it, spawning the conflict that has so burdened the world for the last 60 years. We are also not responsible for the Arab world's choice not to create a Palestinian Arab state in East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank from 1948 to 1967, when it easily could have done so - before there were any Jewish settlements there to serve as the public object of Arab grievance. Nor can the U.S. government under President Clinton be criticized for failing to pursue Yasser Arafat with sufficient solicitude between 1993 and late 2000. The Clinton administration was, after all, the most ardent of suitors of the Palestinian leader - only to be forced to watch Arafat reject an independent Palestinian state in all of Gaza and virtually all of the West Bank. It was the Palestinian leadership, not the U.S., that decided in the fall of 2000 that, rather than accept an independent Palestinian state, its wiser course was to launch a four-year bombing campaign against Israel's civilian population. The result was not merely over 1,100 Israeli civilians killed, but several thousand Palestinians dead, as well as a shattered Palestinian economy and the decision by Israel to begin construction of a security barrier in July 2002. When Israel withdrew from all of Gaza in 2005, the Arab world had the opportunity for a fresh start there - to create a measure of hope for a population whose suffering long predated any Israeli presence. Instead, the Hamas-dominated Palestinian leadership opted to begin and then intensify an aggressive missile-launching campaign against Israeli civilian centers. Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries, whose treasuries overflow with petrodollars, are in a position to invest heavily in Gaza, create economic opportunities for its destitute population, and dilute the toxin-filled atmosphere there. They have not done so. The Egyptians are in a position to act decisively to stop the flow of rockets, bombs and other arms from Egypt into Gaza, where they are used to attack Israeli civilians. They have not done so. The writer was a U.S. Delegate to the UN Human Rights Commission during the Clinton administration.

2007-11-21 01:00:00

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