This week a friend will be visiting Israel. George W. Bush is indeed a true friend of Israel and even his critics will admit that he is determined to fight terrorism and is unwilling to compromise on that front. Bush showed understanding to the serious terror problems suffered by Israel and granted international backing to our own war on terror. He was also the first American president who recognized that Israel would not be able to return to the 1967 borders, that we cannot ignore demographic realities on the ground, and that Palestinian refugees would not be able to return to Israel.
His understanding was translated into a pledge given in the Bush letter to Sharon in April 2004 approved by both US Houses of Congress. Bush also saw the need for phased progress in implementing the Road Map. That is, there should be no progress to the next phase before the previous phase is fully implemented.
Bush certainly understands this. What is worrisome is the question of whether we understand it. The prime minister and cabinet ministers involved in negotiations with the Palestinians decided to relinquish what everyone agreed upon earlier – Israel, the Americans, and even the Palestinians – no phases will be skipped before full implementation of the previous phase.
For example, the first phase of the Road Map refers to, among other things, an end to terror acts, dismantlement of Palestinian groups, and confiscation of arms, and until this is not implemented there should be not discussion of issues pertaining to a final-status agreement.
Yet what is happening in practice? Our people are seriously discussing with the Palestinians issues pertaining to a final-status agreement, while at the same time members of the Palestinian Authority’s security apparatuses are carrying out acts of terror and murder. The prime minister and his ministers keep explaining how important it is to boost Mahmoud Abbas’ forces, and meanwhile we are burying the victims of this boost.
The government sends arms, ammunition, and other combat means to the Palestinian Authority when it’s clear that these weapons will never be used to fight terror. The only question is when will these weapons be turned on us.
The wrong conclusionWhat kind of policy is this? Is this a case of naiveté or folly? After all, even if there are a few innocent souls left who believe that something good will come out of talks with the Palestinians, they in particular should adhere to the phase principle. This concept is premised on the healthy logic that as long as terror and chaos on the Palestinian side persist, there is no point in engaging in peace negotiations. After all, peace and quiet are the objective of negotiations, rather than the mere presence of talks in and of themselves.
The fact that negotiations are being held cannot bring about peace and calm, as was proven in the past, particularly in the Camp David Conference and during the Taba talks. Negotiations under the cloud of terrorism do not lead to an end to terror, but rather, merely hinder the war on terrorism.
It is clear that the Palestinians have not fought terrorism and will not be doing so, yet despite this and despite the anarchy on the Palestinian side, the prime minister and his ministers drew the opposite conclusion of the one required. Instead of realizing that the Palestinian unwillingness and inability to implement the first phase of the Road Map that deals with fighting terrorism makes any progress to the next phases redundant, it was decided to yield to the Palestinians on this point, which is in fact the heart of the matter and the major objective. It was a complete folly to take the most important and central issue, which was agreed upon by the Americans as well, and relinquish it. And what for?
Let’s hope that the erosion of previous achievements will not continue in other areas as well, such as the war on terror, the refusal to return to the 1967 borders, and the question of refugees. These are issues which the previous government reached agreement on with the Americans following intensive efforts. After all, we cannot expect our American friends to be more committed to our own interests than we are.