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Abu Mazen Now On Notice

Even as the so-called road map is now formally upon us, it is hardly necessary for The Jewish Press to once again go on record in opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state. Our oft-stated, firm belief that the ultimate goal of the Palestinian national movement is the eradication of the Jewish state remains undiminished.

Moreover, there is, of course, our devotion to the biblical allocation of that part of the world to the Jewish people. Yet one also cannot ignore the existential reality that a prime minster of Israel must now confront - a world in which there is not a single country that would now stand
with Israel in opposition to a Palestinian state. Plainly, the inescapable task of an Israeli leader must be to ensure that the center of gravity of any accommodation between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs is as close to Israel’s core interests as is feasible. And it is in this light that we are encouraged by President Bush’s high profile, personal involvement in the road map.

Most of us were taken aback by Mr. Bush’s very public embrace of the road map and his going out of his way several times to place his prestige squarely behind it. This was especially so because those declarations invariably came in response to Israeli objections to several of the road map’s provisions.

As the message from the president of the United States seemed to be that Israel had better get on board, visions of Clintonian “pressure” leapt to the fore.

However, a sober review of some things that have happened since 9/11 provides a different perspective. If Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom demonstrated anything, it was that this president does not opt for face-saving ways out of problems, but is rather prepared to do what has to be done.

Equally as revealing was the President’s reaction to the Karine A affair. Mr. Bush had never trusted Yasir Arafat and made no bones about it. But it was when the seizure of the Karine A - with its clandestine cache of arms destined for Palestinian Arab terrorists - gave the lie to Arafat’s regular assurances of his peaceful intentions that the president decided to go public with his distaste for Arafat.

The decisive cutting-off of Arafat came when President Bush delivered his June 24, 2002 “regime change” speech calling for Arafat’s ouster: “I call upon the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror… Today, Palestinian authorities are encouraging, not opposing, terrorism. This is unacceptable.”

It may sound naive, but to us at least, Mr. Bush has proved, by word and by deed, that he is someone who will not be toyed with. We believe there is a clear message here for Abu Mazen and the “new” Palestinian leadership: If you are really serious about peace with Israel, I’ll know soon enough. If you choose to merely continue the Palestinan “rope a dope” tradition, I’ll know that too. And don’t count on me looking away or losing interest. There will be consequences.

To be sure, we are deeply concerned with, among others, some of the simultaneity provisions of the road map and, of course the inclusion of the “right of return” as an issue to be negotiated. But it should also be noted that the Israeli press on Tuesday reported comments of Prime Minister Sharon to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to the effect that there are side agreements and understandings with the Bush Administration on the
implementation of key provisions of the road map notwithstanding its formal terms.

We would also draw further attention to what President Bush had to say last June 24:

…[T]he United States will not support the establishment of a Palestinian state until its leaders
engage in a sustained fight against the terorrists and dismantle their infrastructure.. As we make progress towards security, Israeli forces need to withdraw fully to positions they held prior to September 28, 2000….As new Palestinians institutions and new leaders emerge, demonstrating real performance on security and reform, I expect israel to respond and work toward a final status agreement. With intensive effort by all, this agreement could be reached within three years from now. And I and my country will actively lead toward that goal.

Significantly, two days later, at a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Mr. Bush responded to a question about how serious he was about his call for Palestinian “regime change” with,

I meant what I said, that there needs to be change. If people are interested in peace, something else has got to happen…. I also made it plenty clear that if their leadership is compromised by terror we won’t be on the path to peace. I’ve got confidence in the Palestinians that when they understand fully what we’re saying, they’ll make the right decisions as to how we get down the road to peace.”

Given the great anxiety about the road map, it would be wise to note that at that same press conference, referring to his June 24 speech the president said,


Obviously the road map I’ve laid out is one that calls upon all our friend and allies to join and bind together against terror; it calls upon the Arab nations to step up and firmly reject terror.” (Italics added.)

In sum, we are hopeful that despite our serious misgivings about the advent of the road map, it is still very much a work in progress.

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