Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ignoring the Big Issue of the Israeli-Arab Conflict, Dennis Ross is Still Preoccupied With Baby Steps

Although it might not be evident from the overall news coverage, President George W. Bush is visiting Israel to give a boost to Israeli-Palestininan negotiations. In a column appropriately titled "Baby Steps," at The New Republic Online, Dennis Ross urges President Bush that the way to break the current stalemate and achieve progress is to concentrate on small, achievable objectives.

Dennis Ross (pictured above right with Yassir Arafat, may his name be erased) served as an advisor and negotiator on the Israeli-Arab conflict three U.S. administrations, those of President Ronald Reagan, President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton. His tenure covered the initiation of Israeli-Arab direct negotiations in Madrid in 1991, the Oslo Accords in 1993, the Israel-Jordan peace treaty of 1994, the Wye Accord of 1998 and the failed Camp David summit in the year 2000. His book about the Israeli-Arab conflict, The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace, is a valuable historical record, if only because it so totally refutes the revisionist writings of people such as former President Jimmy Carter, who try to remove the onus of the failed Camp David negotiations from Yassir Arafat and the Palestinians and place it on Bill Clinton, the U.S., Ehud Barak and Israel. For example, it totally debunks Carter's arguments that the West Bank territories Israel offered for the new Palestinian state consisted of non-contiguous "cantons." (Of course Gaza and the West Bank are not contiguous, because Israel within its pre-1967 borders separates them.)

However, Dennis Ross suffered then and suffers now from the occcupational disease of diplomats, a myopia that focuses on the use of vague or ambiguous language to create an illusion of agreement, while ignoring the fundamental differences that separate the parties. Progress on minor issues may reduce tension temporarily, but there never can be peace between Israel and the Arabs, including Palestinian Arabs, until the Arabs accept the existence of Israel as a Jewish State within secure and recognized borders. Had the Arabs done so at any time since the U.N. Partition of the Palestinian Mandate in 1947, peace and a Palestinian state would have been the immediate result. So long as the ultimate Arab objective remains the destruction of Israel, or its metamorphosis into a binational secular state, there will be no Middle East peace.

The photograph above also illustrates the other malodorous result of the Camp David Accords and the negotiations that followed. They rehabilitated Yassir Arafat. At the beginning of 1993, Arafat and his PLO cohorts languished in Tunesia, having been expelled from Lebanon in 1982. Arafat's backing of Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 had turned him into a diplomatic pariah among the conservative Arab States. Camp David rescued him from all that and gave him renewed legitimacy. He was received at the Clinton White House more often than any foreign head of state, even though he was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans and Israelis, and may have personally given the order for the murder of American diplomats Cleo Noel and George Curtis Moore by Black September terrorists in Khartoum in 1973.

How sad that President Clinton and Dennis Ross concluded that affairs of state demanded that such a person be given an honored reception at the White House, rather than the arrest and imprisonment or execution that he so richly deserved. Much more appropriate was the "welcome" that then New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani gave Arafat on October 23, 1995. When Giuliani spotted Arafat and his entourage making their way to their seats for a concert of the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center, marking the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, the Mayor ordered Arafat to leave the premises. Read about the incident here.

Keep in mind that Giuliani acted at the height of Arafat's post-Oslo popularity, while the leaders of the U.S. and Israel were pointedly ignoring how Arafat had time and again spoken to Arab audiences about his dreams of jihad for Jerusalem and about how Oslo was simply the implementation of the PLO’s long stated goal of destroying Israel in stages. Buses were exploding in Jerusalem, but the American Jewish community was fawning over Arafat, and many of its leaders shamefully condemned Giuliani for refusing to welcome to Lincoln Center the man responsible for the murder of more Jews than anyone since Hitler and Stalin.

The United States needs less of the diplomacy of Dennis Ross and more leadership of the type displayed by Rudy Giuliani on October 23, 1995.


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