Tags: One-Way | Road | Peace

One-Way Road to Peace

Monday, 09 June 2003 12:00 AM

So, after two "Peace Summits" in three days, both involving President Bush, how's the road to peace looking? It looks an awful lot like previous attempts at solving the Israeli-Arab crisis; it's a one-way road.

Let's start with the second of the two meetings attended by President Bush, last Wednesday in Ababa, Jordan. Joining Bush was Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (a.k.a. Abu Mazen) and the host of the summit, Jordan's King Abdullah. When their meeting had ended, Abdullah was the first man to speak to the gathered dignitaries and the media. What he said, and what he didn't say, set the tone for Abbas, who would speak next.

Abdullah said that it was dreams of peace that led to the meeting of the four leaders. "A dream of peace, prosperity, coexistence and reconciliation ... but dreams alone can not fulfill hopes." That sounded pretty good, I must admit.

And there was more to come from the king. "We meet here today to transform from these dreams into real achievements on the ground." How can one have a problem with that line? I'll tell you how.

The one thing that Abdullah could have done to make that happen, he elected not to do. Shortly after the start of the latest intifadah (the Palestinians' 32-month surge of violence against Israel), Jordan, one of only two Arab countries to have a peace treaty with Israel, called home its diplomatic staff, effectively cutting off all diplomatic relations with its Jewish neighbor.

Had he been the least bit sincere in what he was saying, Abdullah would have taken the opportunity of the summit to announce that he was sending everyone back. He did not.

Next, the King of Jordan did what has become common place around the world. Even Bill Clinton did it during his visit to the region when he was president. Abdullah stood on the world stage and equated terrorism, and the innocent women and children it claims, with those fighting the terrorists and those who lose their lives accidentally, caught in the crossfire of the war against terror, and the killing of the terrorists themselves.

"Blowing up buses will not invoke the Israelis to move forward," said the king, referring to the slaughter of innocent Jews by homicide bombers. "And neither will the killing of Palestinians or the demolition of their homes or their future."

And there it is. To Abdullah, and much of the rest of the world, Israel's targeted assassinations of known terrorists, the accidental deaths of those who might be killed in the process, and the demolition of homes belonging to terrorists and bomb makers, is the same as the killing of a mother and her child who are shot to death while sleeping in their beds, by Palestinian terrorist thugs.

Abdullah continued, "All this needs to stop and we pledge that Jordan will do its utmost to help achieve it." That remains to be seen. One more thing that he did not do was refer to Israel as a "Jewish state." He talked about two states, Israel and Palestine, living in peace side by side.

But by not acknowledging that Israel is and will remain as a Jewish state, he leaves open the hope of most of the Arab world, that under the so-called Palestinian right of return, millions of Palestinians will flood Israel, taking over the majority of the population, and creating in effect two Palestinian states. That's one heck of a two-state solution.

The next to speak was new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. He seemed to say all of the right things, with the exception of calling Israel a "Jewish state."

"The armed intifadah must end," he said. "Our goal is clear, and we will implement it firmly and without compromise: a complete end to violence and terrorism," he promised.

Again, like the words uttered by King Abdullah, they sounded good, but his actions on the ground haven't matched his rhetoric.

Abbas' idea of ending terrorism and violence is to beg the terrorists to stop, and have them join his Palestinian police force. I kid you not.

While Hamas has broken off such talks with Abbas, the terrorist group known as Islamic Jihad says it will discuss halting attacks against Israelis in some areas, but there are no guarantees.

Meanwhile, reportedly Abbas' security chief Mohamed Dahlan has done the unthinkable. He's offered to buy the weapons from Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, another terrorist group controlled by Yasser Arafat.

He's also offering a bonus of $6,000 to brigade members who quit the terror group, and sign up with his new security forces. According to the report in Saturday's New York Daily News, sources say the money for the buybacks and the bonuses to terrorists was provided by the U.S. and European countries. This is unacceptable.

While the Palestinians and Arab leaders talk about taking steps toward peace, Israel has been pressured into taking real steps. I say pressured because I do not know of another country in the world (certainly not the United States) that would release terrorists from jail, as a goodwill gesture, while fighting to end terrorist attacks against its own people.

Israel has released 100 Palestinian prisoners from jail, including Ahmad Jbarah. The man known as the 1975 "fridge bomber" was Israel's longest-held prisoner. His crime was setting off a bomb placed in an old refrigerator on the street in Jerusalem's Zion Square. He killed 13 people, including two Americans, in that attack.

Why, then, was he released? It seems he's a longtime buddy of the new prime minister, Mr. Abbas, and he had lobbied for his friend's freedom.

You may have seen the picture published throughout the world last week of Jbarah having a grand old reunion with another buddy of his, Yassar Arafat. It made me ill, and made me ask a question of President Bush.

If we care so much about the recently captured Abu Abbas, the mastermind of the Achille Lauro, who is responsible for the death of disabled American Leon Klinghoffer, thrown overboard from that ship by Abbas' thugs, then what about the two Americans killed by Ahmad Jbarah? Why didn't Bush nix the plan to release him?

In fact, why in the world would Bush want Israel to release any terrorists from its jails? It's a good question, with no acceptable answer, no matter what the reason may be.

Releasing terrorists isn't all that Israel has done in good faith, while the Palestinians and Arab states have done nothing. They've promised to dismantle illegal settlement outposts, while already easing border restrictions on Palestinians, handing over some overdue tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority (withheld because of the Palestinian violence against Israel) and withdrawing from certain Palestinian-controlled towns and villages. (Israel had moved in to combat terror attacks coming from these areas.)

When Ariel Sharon spoke after the summit, he mentioned some of the above moves and also referred to Israel as a "Jewish state." President Bush did the same when he made his remarks after Sharon. Something, as previously noted, that neither Abdullah nor Abbas had done, nor was it done by the Egyptian President Mubarak a day earlier.

Mubarak spoke after the first summit in the area. It took place in Egypt. President Bush was there, and so were the heads of various Arab nations, excluding Syria, which opted not to attend. There too the Arab leaders gave lip service to peace, without calling Israel a "Jewish state."

They, like Abbas, called for an end to terrorism, but like the Palestinian prime minister, they never mentioned any of the terrorist groups by name. Nor did any of the countries in attendance offer to begin the process of recognizing the state of Israel. That's correct, except for Jordan and Egypt, no other Arab country has diplomatic relations with Israel.

In fact, like Jordan, Egypt pulled its diplomats from Israel about two years ago. It would have been a perfect setting for President Mubarak to make a "goodwill" gesture, but of course none was forthcoming.

That's the way things work in this road map to peace. It certainly is a one-way road.

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So, after two "Peace Summits"in three days, both involving President Bush, how's the road to peace looking? It looks an awful lot like previous attempts at solving the Israeli-Arab crisis; it's a one-way road. Let's start with the second of the two meetings attended by...
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Monday, 09 June 2003 12:00 AM
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