An Excellent Speech, with One Serious Mistake

President George Bush?s recent speech to the UN on the danger that Iraq poses to the people of the world, and the necessity of taking strong pre-emptive measures to foreclose that danger, is a model of courageous and rational thinking. It is so much easier to wait until after the disaster before reacting. It requires so little courage, so little effort, so little risk of being wrong, or being po

Contributing Author,

Writing on the wall: Death to Jews
Writing on the wall: Death to Jews
photo
President George Bush?s recent speech to the UN on the danger that Iraq poses to the people of the world, and the necessity of taking strong pre-emptive measures to foreclose that danger, is a model of courageous and rational thinking. It is so much easier to wait until after the disaster before reacting. It requires so little courage, so little effort, so little risk of being wrong, or being portrayed as wrong. Only deeply responsible leaders know that all of that does not matter when set in the balance of millions of innocent lives at risk. And Bush has taken the responsible path.

The first to take pre-emptive action against Iraq was the late Prime Minister Menahem Begin, whose assault on the Iraqi nuclear facility was widely condemned both in Israel and abroad. Today no one questions the wisdom of his act. The measure of a great leader is his willingness to do the right thing, even if it means taking the blame. President Bush is following in Begin?s footsteps, taking serious personal risks in order to prevent catastrophe, once again in Iraq.

There is a great deal to justify the attack. There are the unambiguous reasons, the facts. Iraq has broken agreements with the United Nations and has refused to allow inspections of her weapons. Iraq has committed numerous acts of aggressive violence against other nations, and against her own people, killing somewhere in the vicinity of a million people.

But, in addition to this, President Bush has enough intelligence information to be able to conclude that the destructive aims have not changed. The constant efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction give a clear indication of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein?s intentions for the future. Even though future intentions can never be fully documented, we have to make reasonable projections and act on them. In cases like these, past performance is the most reliable indicator.

Perhaps the most important point is that this last warning really seems to be the last. There is a limit in Bush?s mind to how many times an additional chance has to be given, on the off-chance that a miracle has occurred and the leopard has changed its spots. At some point you have to draw a conclusion, and Bush seems prepared to do so.

So where is the big mistake? The mistake is that President Bush does not seem to see that the Palestinian Authority fits into the same pattern as that of Saddam Hussein?s Iraq, and that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. The Palestinian Authority has violated all of its pledges to restrain violence, and has actively supported and instigated the murder of Israeli citizens. Its leaders were granted land, weapons, money and political authority in return for only one pledge: to restrain the violence; but they did the opposite of that. Hundreds of people have lost their lives in Arafat?s Oslo war, and no one knows how many more will follow after them.

If Oslo was a test, the results are in and they are unambiguous: the Palestinians have shown time and time again, in opportunity after opportunity, that they are not interested in living together with Israel in peace. This is not just a matter of a corrupt leadership. Whatever the cause, at least 85% of the Palestinian population now fully supports the killing of any and all Israeli Jews. The evidence of good neighborly intentions is just not there.
And yet, despite all that, Bush made it clear that there is still room to consider the possibility of creating a Palestinian state within the borders of present-day Israel. That is folly. After all the warnings, all the evidence, all the chances and opportunities, there has to come a time when you reach a conclusion and an estimation about what the future will bring.

Very few people even remember the days when Israel made the great concessions in Oslo and agreed to a trial period of good will leading up to some sort of autonomy for the Palestinians. Hopes were high that we had finally resolved the conflict. But all that is past. The hopes for reciprocity were illusions; there is no intention of peace with Israel; the demands remain incompatible with the security and survival of the Jewish state.

Today, very few people think that creating a Palestinian state within the borders of present-day Israel will really lead to a stable peace. Anyone familiar with the region knows that even with the best good will on both sides, geographical considerations make continued friction and hostility very likely ? and the good will is not there in the first place.

Few think that with the creation of a state friction will cease. Some Palestinian partisans may support the creation of a Palestinian state because they would be happy to see the Palestinians given the opportunity to take more aggressive action against the Jews of Israel. But in the West (and in Israel), you are more likely to hear that a state should be created even if it will not bring peace, just because you have to do something, and that seems like the only thing left to try.

But that kind of thinking is anathema to responsible decision-makers. It involves closing our eyes to all the evidence of what a Palestinian state will really mean. It means putting millions of people at risk of full-scale military hostilities within the borders of present-day Israel for the sake of taking a chance that we already took, and that already proved unfounded. That is the last thing that a responsible or decent-minded leader would entertain.

Responsible leadership means taking preventative action to forestall situations of great danger to innocent lives. It often means taking a personal risk. President Bush deserves to be congratulated for taking that risk in order to close down Iraq. But there is no reason why rational responsible decision-making should be excluded from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We have tried the path of Israeli concessions, and it has not worked. It is time to try something in the other direction.
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Dr. Gabriel Danzig
Department of Classics
Bar Ilan University



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