Terms of Surrender
February 17, 2002
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The op-ed page of today's New York Times offers not one but two plans for an Israeli surrender. One is by Times columnist Thomas Friedman; the other is by Jerome M. Segal, "president of the Jewish Peace Lobby." Let's take them one at a time.
Mr. Friedman's plan is that "In return for a total withdrawal by Israel to the June 4, 1967, lines, and the establishment of a Palestinian state, the 22 members of the Arab League would offer Israel full diplomatic relations, normalized trade and security guarantees."
The Saudi crown prince, Abdullah, seems open to this idea. But it's extremely unlikely that Israel would ever accept it, for the following reasons:
1. It would be suicidal. The pre-1967 borders were once described by Abba Eban, the Israeli diplomat who is no hawk, as the "Auschwitz borders" because they made Israel so vulnerable. As Ronald Reagan once said, "in the pre-1967 borders, Israel was barely ten miles wide at its narrowest point. The bulk of Israel's population lived within artillery range of hostile Arab armies. I am not about to ask Israel to live that way again."
2. It ignores the significance of Jerusalem sites to the Jewish religion. The Friedman-Abdullah plan would surrender the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem and the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives into the hands of the same Arabs who desecrated these Jewish sites the last time around. When Jordan controlled eastern Jerusalem from 1948 to 1967, the gravestones of Jewish rabbis and sages were used to build Jordanian army latrines. Fifty-eight synagogues were destroyed or ruined, and Israelis were denied access to the Western Wall, according to the book "Myths and Facts." As Yitzhak Rabin, the peacemaking prime minister, said in Washington on October 25, 1995, "My Jerusalem is the focus of the Jewish people's yearnings, the city of its visions, the cradle of its prayers. It is the dream of the return to Zion. It is the name millions murmur, even on their death bed. It is the place where eyes are raised and prayers are uttered. . . . In Israel, we all agree on one issue: the wholeness of Jerusalem, the continuation of its existence as capital of the State of Israel. There are no two Jerusalems. There is only one Jerusalem. For us, Jerusalem is not subject to compromise, and there is no peace without Jerusalem. Jerusalem, which was destroyed eight times, where for years we had no access to the remnants of our Temple, was ours, is ours, and will be ours -- forever."
3. It ignores the military balance. Israel won the 1967 war. It is widely reported to have nuclear weapons, which its Arab foes do not have. America won the Cold War, in which many of the Arab tyrannies, terrorist gangs and leaders -- including Syria and the Palestine Liberation Organization -- sided with the Soviet Union. Why should the winning side surrender all the land it won? It's as if, 25 years after the Axis powers lost World War II, a columnist for the New York Times fetched up and suggested that France, Austria and Poland surrender to Axis sovereignty in exchange for the Axis powers granting full diplomatic relations, normalized trade and security guarantees to America, Britain and the Soviet Union. What kind of peace plan involves the losing side getting all the territorial concessions?
4. What the Arabs are offering is worthless. The Friedman-Abdullah plan holds out the carrot to Israel of "full diplomatic relations, normalized trade and security guarantees." Why would Israel want full diplomatic relations with governments like those that exist in Iraq or Libya? Even America does not have full diplomatic relations with those countries, any more than it does with Cuba or with North Korea. They are pariah states, as well they should be because of the horrible way they treat their own citizens. Were Israel to have an ambassador hobnobbing with the thugs that surround Bashar Assad in Syria or Saddam Hussein in Iraq, what sort of message would that send to the brave souls fighting for freedom and democracy in those countries? Israel supposedly has full diplomatic relations with Egypt and look at what it has brought Israel and the Egyptian people: a government-controlled press full of anti-Jewish blood libels, an Egyptian dictatorship that throws political opponents in prison, and an Egyptian army that is arming itself with the latest in North Korean missiles for use against Israel while the Egyptian population languishes in poverty. As for trade, Israel's economy is so first-world that its natural trading partners are America, Japan and the European Union. The Arab states are so poor in comparison that a trade relationship wouldn't mean all that much to Israel. Mr. Friedman may have been wowed by the royal surroundings in Riyadh, but even the once-rich Gulf oil states have fallen on hard economic times. The funniest of the carrots is the idea of security guarantees. The 22 Arab states are going to guarantee Israel's security against an attack by -- which country? Liechtenstein? First of all, these 22 Arab states haven't won a war yet, so any guarantees they make are not likely to make Israel feel very secure. But just as important, they are tyrannies, with a long history of double-crossing and of the rejection of Israel's right to exist, and with a need to distract their own citizens from the fact that they are living in oppressive tyrannies. Why would a "security guarantee" from these guys be worth any more than the paper it is written on -- or than the paper that Yasser Arafat wrote his worthless security guarantees to Israel on back in 1993?
Particularly rich is the news article that the Times writes about its own op-ed piece. The article runs under the headline "Arab Experts Fault Saudi's Idea Based on Land-for-Peace Trade." The article contains only Arab reaction to the Friedman-Abdullah plan; not a single Israeli reaction is included. The Times news article summarizes the plan as "declaring that if Israel withdrew from all the occupied territories, including the Arab quarters of Jerusalem, then the Arab states would offer full normalization of relations." But, as described in the op-ed column, the Friedman-Abdullah plan involves Israeli withdrawal not only from "the Arab quarters of Jerusalem" but to the June 4, 1967 borders -- in other words, withdrawal from the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, the Mount of Olives cemetery, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. The Times news department may consider these places "the Arab quarters of Jerusalem." But they are not.
Mr. Segal's peace plan is just as bad. It proposes that the United Nations establish and recognize a state of Palestine in all of Gaza and in land that amounts to 100 percent of the land in the West Bank. In return, the Palestinian Arabs must recognize Israel, import no weapons, agree not to enter into any treaty with a country not at peace with Israel, and disarm terrorist groups. Mr. Segal writes, "It is quite possible, of course, that the P.L.O. would refuse to meet the conditions necessary to get the process started. That would leave us where we are today, with one great difference: The onus for the continued occupation would fall squarely on the P.L.O." Mr. Segal is trying to sell the same camel twice. The conditions that he sets for the Palestinian Arabs are the same ones that were set in the 1993 Oslo accords and in all the subsequent agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Agreement. The PLO has refused to meet those conditions. And now most everyone except for the likes of Mr. Segal realizes that the onus for the continued occupation falls squarely on the PLO. Mr. Segal does not explain why he thinks the Oslo approach will succeed under U.N. auspices when it has failed repeatedly under American auspices. There are other problems with the plan -- the "Auschwitz borders," issue, for instance, applies here the same way as it does in the Friedman-Abdullah plan.
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