The U.S. and Israel: The Road Ahead

(Commentary) Abraham D. Sofaer - This road map, like many plans for Middle East peace, expects to bring an end to Palestinian violence against Israel without addressing the reasons why the Palestinians have deliberately and repeatedly chosen that path. Dennis Ross recently admitted that he and other U.S. negotiators failed to take seriously the PA's steadfast refusal to end violence. Instead, in the face of the continuing violence, the U.S. kept pressing Israel to make further concessions, thereby convincing Palestinians that they could go on cheating and killing and still procure the benefits for which they had been negotiating. Palestinian violence is the product of an environment that fosters, shelters, encourages, and rewards acts aimed at nullifying Israel's very existence. And that environment is itself the creation not only of the Palestinians, or of the Arabs, but also of the international community - including the United States. To change this situation requires changing not just the actions and attitudes of Palestinians but the policies and practices of others, again including the United States. No recognition of these facts, let alone any acknowledgment of the need to do something about them, has been made part of the road map - which is again why it shares the basic flaw of every Middle East peace plan that has preceded it. In the late 1980s, when I was running the legal adviser's office in the State Department, my colleague Nicholas Rostow and I proposed to Secretary George Shultz that the U.S. move toward ending its financial support of UNRWA programs that perpetuated the exploitation of refugees as tools of the radical Palestinian cause. The camps were helping to prevent peace from being achieved. An alternative would include plans for building permanent homes for Palestinian refugees within Palestinian territories on the West Bank or in nearby states. As the scholar Scott B. Lasensky has recently suggested, incentive programs could also be put in place to encourage refugees to relocate and neighboring Arab states to accept them. Such resettlement could commence immediately; as long as it does not, we will be continuing to aid in solidifying the sentiments that lead to terrorism. The U.S. has known for many years that, in addition to those associated with the PLO, at least three major terrorist groups operate in Israel: Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Until recently, however, the State Department has joined in castigating Israel for capturing or killing leaders and members of these groups. It was wrong to do so. It is neither an "assassination" nor a "non-judicial execution" to target an individual who has killed and intends to continue to kill one's citizens if that individual cannot safely be apprehended. Such conduct is part of every state's legitimate right of self-defense. After 9/11, the U.S. recognized the need for an active defense against terror. We killed many terrorists in Afghanistan, and we continue to hunt down al Qaeda operatives and leaders. Are we to deny to Israel the flexibility in protecting itself and its citizens that we demand in protecting ourselves? Our continued failure to demonstrate that we accept Jerusalem as Israel's legitimate capital by moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem has encouraged virtually all other states to behave similarly. This, too, feeds the openly expressed hope of radical Palestinians and their supporters that somehow, some day, Israel can be pushed back to its pre-1948 lines, if not into the sea. Any plan seriously aimed at leading toward peace, and backed by the United States, should make it crystal clear at the outset that a right of return is antithetical to peace, and must be renounced, as such a right of return would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state. Furthermore, any reference to the rights of Palestinian refugees should be balanced by one to the legitimate claims of the hundreds of thousa

2003-05-02 00:00:00

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