Mideast crisis no reason to vote Gore
By W. James Antle III
Under ordinary circumstances, it would appear that George W. Bush is breaking away from Vice President Al Gore and is poised to win the presidential election. This cycle has thus far proven itself to be anything but ordinary, with the crisis in the Middle East adding to the volatility.
Gov. Bush appears to have reunited the Reagan coalition, which propelled Republicans to three consecutive presidential victories in the 1980s. Gore, who was counting on the debates to establish his vast presidential characteristics, ended up neutralizing his advantage on debating points in the first encounter by behaving like a spoiled child, losing the second debate outright and waddling into an inconclusive draw in the third. Will voters be drawn to Gore's superior foreign-policy experience in light of the recent violence in Israel?
It's an open question, but one thing is certain: They shouldn't be. While Bush, in deference to the principle that partisan bickering should stop at the water's edge, has been reluctant to say so, the Clinton-Gore Middle East policy is at least in part responsible for the region's current fracas.
In dealing with the Israelis and Palestinians, this administration was possessed by sentimentality and ill-conceived notions of moral equivalency not seen since the left's reaction to the Cold War. This resulted in a perverse definition of "even-handedness" that involved always placing the onus on Israel to make concessions to their Arab neighbors and the Palestinians (George Will notes that it is easier to pressure democracies than dictatorships), as if centuries of animosity will be wiped out by good will ensuing from Rose Garden signing ceremonies.
In this startling lack of realism, the Clinton administration was not alone. The socialist stooges running Israel's Labor Party (and presently their country) also believed that by giving up land and security, they could generate the necessary good will to make peace with implacable foes. Perhaps the folly of this is finally clear to Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
Yasser Arafat has repeatedly violated the Oslo accords of 1993, with one violation particularly revealing the motivation behind his bad faith: The fact that he for several years dragged his feet on deleting references to Israel's destruction in the Palestine Liberation Organization's charter. Arafat has maintained a two-faced posture in this alleged peace process, pretending to be a peacemaker before the international community and continuing to call for the eradication of Israel in Arabic before Palestinian audiences. His PLO, long a terrorist organization with ample quantities of Jewish blood on its hands, now controls a 40,000 member police force that has for all intents and purposes (in violation of written agreements with Israel) become a standing army.
Public opinion polls have shown that upwards of 90 percent of Palestinians see the peace process as a temporary measure in taking all of the land that now comprises Israel and abolishing the sovereign Jewish nation. This has been a position publicly taken by a number of PLO leaders and is consistent with a strategy adopted by the organization in the mid-1970s. Palestinian leaders have taken part in the dissemination of anti-Semitic materials and their official television stations broadcast sermons calling for the Jews to be killed wherever they are found. Arafat's state-controlled radio and newspapers are similarly replete with calls to violence and remarkably short on entreaties for peace.
Valid complaints may be lodged against the Israeli government's treatment of the Palestinians, both in the past and the present. But Palestinians and other Israeli Arabs enjoy far more freedom and better treatment than Jews receive in any Arab country. Arab citizens attend fine schools, vote and are afforded full participation in political decision-making. Indeed, Israel is the region's only democracy and the freest country. Many of those calling for Israel's extinction have actually benefited from these facts.
Arafat has released terrorists who have killed women and children from his jails. He has not worked to contain organizations such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which remain openly committed to Israel's destruction. By Arafat's own public concession, leaders of his police forces seek alliances and credibility with members of such groups.
The United Nations has in effect blamed Israel for the violence precipitated by rock-throwing mobs that have desecrated Joseph's Tomb, lynched Israeli soldiers, burned American and Israeli flags and called publicly for jihad. The pretense of Israeli Likud leader Ariel Sharon's visit to Temple Mount- which may be Islam's third holiest site, but it is the holiest site in Judaism is more than a little absurd.
The simple fact of the matter is that 99 percent of Palestinians live under Arafat's rule, not Israeli occupation. Barak has given the Palestinians virtually all of the West Bank, at great risk to his own country, and was open to ceding more territory. At Camp David, Barak offered Israeli recognition of the first independent Palestinian state in history. Arafat not only refused this generous offer, he declined to even make a counteroffer.
Instead, he traveled about the world trying to drum up international support for a unilateral declaration of independence in violation of the Oslo accords. It was Arafat's state-controlled media that broadcast old footage of rock-throwing during the intifada and his Voice of Palestine radio that played war songs. It was Arafat himself who closed the schools and called for a general strike. It was in this climate that the fighting broke out. Blaming Israel for defending itself is, not to be too polite about it, stupid at best and disgusting at worst.
Arafat wants nothing less than the destruction of Israel. This includes control of Jerusalem, ownership of Judaism's holiest sites, the death or expulsion of 5 million Jews. There is no point in pretending otherwise. There are now thousands of people taking to the streets in cities all over the Arab world echoing this sentiment, often more bluntly than the PLO leader would ever dare. They are also denouncing the West generally and the United States particularly.
What do Clinton and Gore have to do with Arafat? Clinton invited Arafat to the White House more times than any world leader. His administration, with Gore's support, invested in him as a peacemaker. This is the same Arafat who authorized the murder of the American ambassador in Khartoum in 1973. But the Clinton administration has always been unable to tell the difference between terrorists and statesmen.
Gore would continue to place his faith in a peace process that has predictably brought about war and advance those who work against both Israeli and American interests. There has been a failure to understand that what is at stake here isn't anyone's presidential legacy. It is the political fate of the Palestinians and the physical survival of Israel and a large portion of the world's Jewish people.
If this failure counts as foreign-policy experience, it is not experience the voters should wish to reward with their support. There is no reason to believe the vice president would somehow have a better response to this Middle Eastern crisis or be better able to protect our interests as a result of it than Gov. Bush. Let us not forget his administration's role in generating this crisis and likely endangered American as well as Israeli lives in the process.
W. James Antle III is a former researcher for the Rhema Group, an Ohio-based political consulting firm. You can e-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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