From the beginning of May until last Tuesday, the Palestinians carried out 323 terrorist attacks against Israeli targets. That is an average of 12 per day. These attacks include suicide bombings, penetrations of Israeli towns by gunmen, roadside shootings, grenade and anti-tank missile attacks, mortar shellings, rocket attacks, assaults, and stabbings.
The navy’s interception last Tuesday of the Hizbullah arms boat en route to Gaza was an indication that the Palestinians are not satisfied with the results of their aggression but are intent on improving their capabilities. It is also a sign that the Palestinians are not acting on their own; they are conducting their terrorist war with the direct military support of Iran, Hizbullah’s boss, and Syria, Hizbullah’s enabler.
Over the past two weeks, rocket attacks on Sderot from the Gaza Strip have markedly increased. On Wednesday, Sderot was attacked twice with four rockets. Two rockets scored direct hits on private homes. Luckily, the residents were not present when their homes were destroyed, yet two women and a young girl were hospitalized for shock.
Speaking in Holon last Saturday, Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal explained that while it seems as though the IDF’s actions in the northern Gaza Strip have been unsuccessful in thwarting the rocket attacks, the truth is that were the IDF not operating in Beit Hanun, the home of the Kassam rocket industry, Sderot would be absorbing “not a few rockets a day, but hundreds.”
The cargo on board the intercepted boat showed that the Palestinians are intent on increasing the effectiveness of their attacks. The navy seized 36 CD-ROMs with instructions on how to make bombs, rockets, and various other types of explosives and how to maximize the kill rate of suicide bombers on buses. As well, the boat’s cargo hold included five boxes of 122 mm. rocket fuses and other bomb making components, including a radio activation system and electronic delay units.
In an interview with Yediot Aharonot on Thursday, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas repeated for the 1000th time that he has no intention of taking any action against the terrorist infrastructure. While he maintains that he is presently negotiating with Hamas to stop attacks on Israelis and states that once he has an agreement for a cease-fire, he will try to work out arrangements with Fatah and Islamic Jihad, Abbas will take no military action against any of the terror networks. “We will never have a civil war,” he said.
He also indicated that Israel must help him to convince terrorists to agree to a work stoppage by “releasing prisoners and avoiding military operations.”
For his part, Saeb Erekat was even more succinct. Speaking with the Associated Press on Wednesday, he explained that Abbas is aiming to get Hamas and Islamic Jihad to agree to wait until after a Palestinian state is declared before attacking Israeli targets. In his words, Abbas “will insist on this declaration [of a cease-fire] because that’s the key… for him to go out and tell the Palestinians, ‘Look, we’ve got the Israeli government to recognize the Palestinian state, [so] we need two years in a peaceful, meaningful peace process.”
With all this taking place before our eyes, the government Sunday agreed to accept the Quartet’s road map plan for the swift establishment of a Palestinian state. Unbelievably, the cabinet ministers who voted in favor of the road map stated that they were doing so even though the plan is antithetical to Israel’s national interests. Naively, they excused their behavior by mentioning that the Bush administration has agreed to consider Israel’s qualifications to its agreement during the implementation stages of the plan.
These 14 qualifications, which the government was too cowed to even release officially and therefore simply leaked to reporters, would, if accepted, mitigate some of the dangers inherent in the road map. But there can be no consolation in this, because the Bush administration has made clear that it rejects these qualifications. Secretary of State Colin Powell said flat out that there would be “no changes” to the road map.
It is necessary to point out that the road map forces Israel to accept at the outset the establishment of a Palestinian state ruled by the PLO on land to which Israel has a legal claim to sovereignty as strong as, if not stronger than the PLO’s.
While Israel is forced to cease taking actions to defend its citizens from armed aggression carried out by the Palestinians, the Palestinians themselves are requested only to make statements to the effect that they are opposed to armed aggression against the State of Israel. While Israel must recognize the right of the Palestinians to self-determination and to relinquish the right of return of Jews to lands whose sovereignty is disputed, the Palestinians are not asked to recognize that the State of Israel has a right to exist as the Jewish state. The road map makes no reference to the need for the Palestinians to renounce their demand to settle millions of Palestinians within Israel.
Israel, which has absorbed 32 months of unremitting terrorist warfare against its civilians – warfare directed by the Palestinian Authority – is the side the Quartet points to in the road map as the villain. Israel must stop defending itself from aggression. Israel must accept Palestinian political demands lock, stock, and barrel.
Perhaps Prime Minister Ariel Sharon thought that accepting the road map would throw the ball back into the Palestinian court. For the past two months, the Bush administration placed unrelenting pressure on the prime minister to accept the road map “for the president.” According to some reports, the State Department was even threatening Israel with economic and military sanctions if Sharon were to refuse.
The Middle East Newsline reported earlier this week that the State Department recommended denying Israel $8 billion in loan guarantees and $1 billion in supplemental military assistance if the government did not accept the establishment of a Palestinian state by the end of the year as stipulated by the road map.
The State Department was also recommending that the administration announce an investigation into the use of Apache and Cobra attack helicopters and F-16 fighters by the air force in operations against Palestinian terrorists.
And yet, immediately after the cabinet announced its decision, Washington announced its plans for a trilateral summit among President George W. Bush, Sharon, and Abbas next week. Top administration officials are now here busily working to ensure that Sharon will be forthcoming with concrete concessions at the Akaba summit to ensure the meeting’s “success.” So if Sharon thought accepting the road map would decrease US pressure, he was dead wrong. Far from lessening the pressure, Sharon’s decision to accept the road map has only increased US pressure on him tenfold.
Since assuming office, Bush has been viewed by many Israelis, including by this writer, as the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House. In his June 24 speech last year about the Palestinian war against the Jewish state, he made quite clear that the Palestinians are the aggressor.
And yet, in light of the recent actions by the administration, actions that are quite simply hostile to the State of Israel, the president’s credibility as a friend and an ally of the state is necessarily placed in doubt.
Parallel to his calls for democratization of the PA and demands for PA action against terrorism, Bush has distinguished himself as the most outspoken champion of Palestinian statehood to have ever occupied the Oval Office. Bush is the first US president to have ever adopted the establishment of a Palestinian state as an aim of US foreign policy.
Bush first made this statement in a letter to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah on August 29, 2001. The announcement came 36 hours after Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar delivered a breathtakingly hostile message from Abdullah to the White House that amounted to little less than a declaration of war against the US. According to press accounts, Bandar informed National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice that because of the administration’s support for Israel, “the crown prince feels that he cannot continue dealing with the United States.”
Subsequently, the Bush administration sponsored UN Security Council Resolution 1397 that for the first time gave Security Council support for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Bush, while acknowledging Israel’s right to self-defense, has never allowed Israel to take decisive action against the Palestinian war machine.
In spite of the fact that the Palestinian terror threat to Israel is backed by the same forces that back al-Qaida and in spite of the fact that Palestinians fought at the side of Iraqi Republican Guard units in Baghdad against US forces, the Bush administration refuses to accept that the Palestinian terrorist war against Israel is related to the Arab-Islamist jihad against the US. Indeed the administration has labeled “illegitimate” Israeli counterterrorism tactics that are identical to those of the US.
And now, today, all that remains of the contents of Bush’s historic address last June, all that has survived the events of the past year, is an unwavering demand from Israel to accept Palestinian statehood – immediately.
Critics of the president’s newest actions against Israel have argued persuasively that this new hostility toward Israel and embrace of Palestinian terrorists is inimical to US national security interests and deals a harsh blow to the US war on terrorism. From Israel’s perspective, however, the largest problem with this policy is the one with which we never imagined having to contend.
This problem is that when judged solely on its actions, the Bush administration has shown that while in the past it could be relied on for at least a modicum of support, today it no longer views such support as concordant with its interests. Therefore we can no longer blindly trust its intentions.
Whether the current, openly hostile US policy toward Israel is the result of the president’s own preferences or of bad advice he has received from his advisers is impossible to know. But whatever the case, this crushing and heartbreaking reality cannot be swept under the rug. The threats arrayed against us are too foreboding.
We must accept the truth. As presently constituted, the Bush administration’s Middle East policy is hostile to the national security interests of the State of Israel.
This also ran on the front page of the Jerusalem Post on May 30th, 2003