President Bush’s visit to Israel earlier in the month had an air of absurdity to it. Bush and Olmert gave impassioned statements about their commitment to Palestinian statehood as the key to Israel’s security. And they really seemed to believe in what they were saying. And yet, there was this persistent sense throughout that they simply must be joking.
But the punch line never came.
During his visit Bush laid out his updated “vision” for the establishment of a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River.
The first revision of his previous “visions” was Bush no longer believes that the Palestinians need to quit their terror war against Israel and accept Israel’s right to exist before they can have a state. According to his new vision, Israel should enable the Palestinians to assert their sovereignty even if they are still terrorists.
Then there is the geographical basis for the Palestinians state. Bush stated repeatedly that the Palestinian state needs to be “contiguous.” Moreover, Judea and Samaria and Gaza must be considered one territorial unit. All of this means that Bush supports not just a contiguous Palestinian state, but a bifurcated Israel.
Beyond that, Bush asserted that the root of the conflict is the so-called Israeli “occupation” of Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria. And that means the root of the solution is ending that “occupation” and establishing a sovereign Palestinian state in the overwhelming majority of Judea and Samaria, and partitioning Jerusalem.
It also means that hundreds of thousands of Israeli Jews will be forcibly expelled from their homes and their communities in places like in Hebron, Beit El, Shilo, and beyond to make room for a Jew-free Palestine.
With Secretary of State Rice on record demanding that Israel freeze all building activities for Jews in united Jerusalem, it is apparent that Bush’s new “vision” also involves emptying the Jewish presence out of at least parts of Israel’s eternal capital.
To his credit, Bush acknowledges that Gaza, ruled as it is by Hamas, is a problem. But he thinks the best thing would be for Israel to send its soldiers into Gaza to displace Hamas and then hand it over the Fatah forces who surrendered to Hamas last June without firing a shot.
To sum up, then, Bush’s new vision for Palestinian statehood involves rendering Israel politically and militarily indefensible while enabling the establishment of a terror state in the heart of the Holy Land.
Although Bush seemed not to have noticed, Fatah chief Mahmoud Abbas, even as he greeted the president, refused to play his assigned role as the moderate Palestinian leader who eschews terror. Rather than embrace the cause of peace, Abbas devoted his public and private time with Bush to demanding an end to Israeli attacks on terror personnel (Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah alike) in Judea and Samaria and Gaza as well as condemning every action Israel takes to defend itself; and to calling Israel a racist.
Beyond that, he demanded that Bush prevent Israel from unseating Hamas in Gaza and require Israel to release thousands of terrorists from jail in order to “strengthen the moderates” in Palestinian society.
Like Bush, Olmert devoted himself to embracing Palestinian statehood. Ignoring the fact that the current absence of suicide bombers and Kassam missiles in central Israel and Jerusalem is wholly a function of IDF operations in Judea and Samaria, Olmert argued that the only way for Israel to ensure its security is to establish a Palestinian terror state in Judea and Samaria. Beyond that, he called new Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria – the so-called outposts – a disgrace.
After Bush moved on to Saudi Arabia, Olmert again refused the IDF’s request to conquer Gaza in order to defeat Hamas’s Iranian-trained army. Doing so, he argued, would weaken Abbas – and strengthening Abbas, rather than defeating Israel’s enemies, is the only way to defend the country, he said.
Listening to Bush, Abbas and Olmert speak, one could not escape the impression that these men are either fools or modern day Rip Van Winkles who just woke up after a 15-year slumber. The lessons of the Oslo process and of Israel’s withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza seem to have made no impression on them. The transformation of the ruins of Gush Katif into terror training bases seems to have passed them by completely.
The sense of absurdity surrounding Bush’s visit gave way quickly to a sense of deep frustration. Could it really be true that all Israel can expect is to repeat this same tried and failed – and tried again and failed again – appeasement strategy until the end of time?
Well, no. Finally a plan is being advanced that has a chance of extricating Israel – and the U.S. – from the chokehold of the failed two-state paradigm for Middle East peace.
Last month, Member of Knesset and former minister Benny Elon unveiled a new strategy for contending with the Palestinian conflict with Israel. Entitled the Israeli Initiative – The Right Road to Peace (www.israelinitiative.com), Elon’s plan is based on three simple premises: the Palestinian refugees from 1948 must be rehabilitated; Jordan, with its overwhelming Palestinian majority, is Palestine; and, finally, Israel, whose continued control over Judea and Samaria is vital for its own security and for regional stability, must annex the areas and so end its so-called occupation.
The Elon plan argues that the experience of the past 15 years has shown that at base the Palestinian “problem” is not a political but a humanitarian one. Were Israel, the U.S. and the EU to invest their money not in propping up the corrupt, terrorist Palestinian Authority but in rehabilitating the Palestinian refugees in the countries where they have lived for the past four generations and in others that are willing to take them, the reserve forces for terror armies would dry up. The demographic threat to Israel’s Jewish identity would disintegrate.
If Jordan were to return the Jordanian citizenship it illegally revoked in 1988 from the Palestinians of Judea and Samaria, the Palestinians would finally have a citizenship that means something. They would be represented by a government capable of advancing their interests instead of one that forces them to live in constant terror of PA security forces and assorted terror cells.
And if Israel were to assert its sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, it could end the terror threat to Jerusalem and central Israel. It could protect the stability of the region by acting as a bulwark against international terror networks that would no longer have an operating base in Israel’s heartland or terror allies to finance and train. Beyond that, it would strengthen and guarantee the Jewish character of the country for the coming generations of Israelis and Jews throughout the world.
Elon has secured significant financial support from far-sighted donors to market his plan aggressively in Israel and internationally. He has launched an Internet campaign and hired lobbyists in Washington to sell his plan on Capitol Hill and beyond. Republican Senator Sam Brownback has already expressed his support.
In light of Bush and Olmert’s unthinking support for the unworkable and dangerous so-called two-state solution, there is little chance Elon’s plan will be adopted tomorrow as Israeli policy. But he is off to a good start. And given the reality of the Palestinian jihad, there is little doubt his plan offers a real chance for future Israeli and American leaders interested in bringing true peace and stability – rather than festive yet empty peace conferences – to the Middle East.
Caroline Glick is deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post. Her Jewish Press-exclusive column appears the last week of each month.