No Peace in the Middle East: Kemp Nationally Syndicated Column

No Peace in the Middle East: Kemp Nationally Syndicated Column

June 04, 2001

Distributed by Copley News Service

Distributed by Copley News Service

June 4, 2001


An old Jewish proverb says, “What you don’t see with your eyes, don’t invent with your mouth.” Since Israel imposed a unilateral cease-fire on itself on May 23, all eyes have been trained on the Palestinian Authority, looking in vain for evidence that “peace” is more than just a word to be mouthed in the propaganda war against Israel.


The Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas as it’s popularly known, responded to Israel’s courageous gesture of peace with renewed terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians. Since Israel began its self-imposed cease-fire, Israelis have continued to die by terrorist attacks, 23 last week alone.


In the eight months prior to Israel’s unilateral cease-fire, the death tolls in this most recent Intifada had increased beyond anything seen in over a decade: a bomb planted on a bus, a suicide bomber in a crowded market and this past weekend a suicide bomber in a disco filled with young people. Targets of Hamas terror are almost always civilians; Israeli reprisals are always at military targets.


Finally last week, Israeli President Moshe Katsav said enough is enough: “People are fed up. Our patience is not unlimited.” He warned that if Yasir Arafat didn’t end the violence within a couple of days, Israel would respond with a sharply escalated military response.


Within 48 hours there was another suicide bombing so horrendous that Arafat was forced under pressure from the United States, finally, to call for a Palestinian cease-fire. The world watches to see whether he follows up his words with deeds such as rearresting Islamic militants he released from Palestinian prison last fall. On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said, “I don’t believe in words or in declarations, I believe in actions.”


Israel has been opposed with war and terror since it was founded. Just last month, on its 53rd anniversary, Palestinian radio, television and bullhorns in the street declaimed against the 53-year-old “Al Nakba” (catastrophe). The state of Israel does not appear on official Palestinian maps. To radical Palestinians, Israel’s very existence is a “catastrophe.”


When daily bombings, knifings and shootings against civilians back up these claims of illegitimacy, it’s hard to make peace. The cycle of violence and suspicion escalates, borders are closed, commerce shuts down and the tempering commercial ties eventually rupture.


The U.S. State Department has called for a return to the negotiating table, echoing the moral equivalence argument of the report put out by the investigating team led by former Sen. George Mitchell on the causes of the Israeli-Palestinian violence that broke out in September 2000. But the negotiating table with Arafat at the other end of it has always led to more violence and more bloodshed.


Last year Arafat stormed out of Camp David when he was promised only 90 percent of what he wanted, and he unleashed the Intifada currently taking place. His goals are always the same: jihad, destruction and a nonacceptance of Israel’s right to exist.


We should not be confused about Arafat’s demands or pretenses. While the Munich analogy is one of the most abused of all historical lessons, it is almost perfectly analogous to the “land-for-peace” chimera in Israel today. In 1938, when Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain ceded the Sudetenland to Adolf Hitler, he proclaimed that he achieved “peace in our time.” As political scientist Harry Jaffa has recently pointed out in this context, what Chamberlain actually accomplished was to “guarantee the outbreak of the greatest war in all human history.” We should be wary of following that example.


Israel is a democratic country with a judicial system closer to ours than almost any other nation. Arabs are routinely democratically elected to Israel’s parliament. No Arab country has anything close to this, and no Arab country allows Jews to become citizens, much less partake in their government. Of course, no Arab democracy exists, either.


As Jaffa points out, more Palestinians have been murdered by their own government for expressing dissent than have died in action against Israel. This past January, the Palestinian Authority put Majdi Makawi and Alam Odeh on trial for collaborating with Israel. They were each found guilty after a one-hour trial, no appeal was allowed and, within 24 hours, they were killed by firing squads.


My colleague at Empower America, Jeane Kirkpatrick, once pointed out that democracies do not start wars with democracies. Until the seeds of democracy are sown in the Palestinian Authority, peace will be difficult to achieve in the Middle East. With Arafat in power, there will be no democracy in the Palestinian Authority and thus no true peace in the Middle East. Until Palestinian leadership comes to power that understands democratic norms of civility, Israel will continue to be in a fight for its very existence.


Jack Kemp is co-director of Empower America and Distinguished Fellow of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.