George Bush's Diplomatic Ambiguities

The majority of the Palestinian Arabs voted for Hamas and the Bush administration acts surprised and shocked. They denounce Hamas and are squirming to find ways to still proceed with a fictional "peace process" based on an ill-conceived scheme called the Roadmap.

Rachel Neuwirth,

Rachel Neuwirth
Rachel Neuwirth
The majority of the Palestinian Arabs voted for Hamas and the Bush administration acts surprised and shocked. They denounce Hamas and are squirming to find ways to still proceed with a fictional "peace process" based on an ill-conceived scheme called the Roadmap.

The Israeli government was very reluctant to have that election take place. It feared a Hamas victory would also legitimize the terrorist organization. It was Condoleezza Rice who demanded that Israel permit the election and allow Jerusalem Arabs to vote. The word is 'demanded' and not 'requested', because it was reported that Rice came with a threat to punish Israel if they objected.

This is not the first time that an American administration has made demands that come with threats. In the past, the administration has withheld military and financial aid until Israel bowed to US demands that put Israel in greater danger. Contrast this with America's kid-glove treatment of Egypt. To this day, Egypt continues to violate the letter and spirit of its so-called peace agreement with Israel and is uncooperative with US interests in many respects. But for Egypt, American military and economic aid continues unimpeded. Bush also gave an extra two million dollars to the previous Palestinian Authority rulers to help them campaign and presumably be the 'moderate' side in the election.

The Bush Administration objects to Hamas's openly announced goal to destroy Israel, a declaration explicitly contained in the Hamas covenant. But Yasser Arafat and the PLO were little different in substance from Hamas, and the US found them to be acceptable partners for peace and worthy of massive assistance. Yasser Arafat also had a PLO covenant calling for the destruction of Israel. This did not block US support for Arafat and the PLO. In the early 1990s, the US government coached Arafat to publicly utter a few words, in English, recognizing Israel's right to exist and promising to forgo terrorism. In return for these empty words, Israel was pressed for significant concessions - as if such an empty gesture from a terrorist requires some kind of reward. Putting a fig leaf on terrorism is hailed as a diplomatic achievement.

When the PLO covenant became a diplomatic embarrassment, Bill Clinton went to Gaza to attend a meeting of the PLO ruling council. In a staged 'show of hands', the council voted to amend the infamous covenant. Clinton promptly hailed the vote as removing this onerous obstacle to peace and proceeded with the Oslo Accords, plus a dozen visits of Arafat to the White House, and gave hundreds of millions of dollars to Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. The PA/PLO continued to show a map of 'Palestine' in which there was no Israel with no objection from the US administration. And the original PLO covenant remained in effect, with not a single article officially amended.

Arafat was persuaded to confine his inflammatory rhetoric against Israel to speeches in Arabic, while sounding more 'moderate' in English. Arafat wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times, February 3, 2002, titled, "The Palestinian Vision of Peace": He stated: "I condemn the attacks carried out by terrorists groups against Israeli civilians. These groups do not represent the Palestinian people or their legitimate aspirations for freedom." Three days later, he addressed a rally in Ramallah (in Arabic) and he called for "a million martyrs marching on Jerusalem." Just a few hours after that speech, a Palestinian terrorist from Arafat's own Fatah movement murdered three Israeli civilians, among them an 11-year-old girl. The next day, Arafat's "Voice of Palestine" broadcast jubilant praises for the "heroic martyr." So much for the "Palestinian Vision of Peace."

Hamas, in contrast, is simply more honest about its intentions, and refuses any cajoling to at least sound conciliatory in English so that our State Department could resume business as usual.

In violation of the letter and spirit of the 1993 Oslo Accords, Arafat continued his violence and condoned acts of terror. After Ehud Barak's 97% offers to Arafat at Camp David, Arafat launched an even more bloody second intifada. Meanwhile, US diplomacy continued, along with US funds to the PLO/PA.

When George Bush took office, he refused to meet with Arafat but increased PLO/PA funding, thus giving mixed signals. President Bush then embraced Arafat's long-term, close partner Mahmoud Abbas as the new 'moderate' Palestinian leader. Abbas was one of the founders of the Fatah terrorist organization and funded the terrorists who massacred 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. He is also a Holocaust denier, who also refused to disarm or oppose Palestinian terror. To this day, George Bush supports Abbas.

The Bush administration makes a show of complaining that Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist. But for all of Israel's existence, since 1948, every American administration has refused to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Muslims have Mecca and Medina, and have no religious or historical connection to Jerusalem except for politically-based false claims. Since the end of the Crusades, Christians no longer have any political claim on Jerusalem. In contrast, Jerusalem is the holy city of Judaism from Biblical times, having been Israel's capital twice during the periods of the First and Second Temples. Jerusalem is mentioned countless times in both the Hebrew and Christian Bibles and never once in the Koran. And yet, America singles out Israel as the only country in the world where it steadfastly refuses to recognize the nation's capital.

In recognition of historic truth and justice, the US Congress, reflecting the will of the American people, voted to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and allocated funds for that purpose. That action is part of American law. Both Bill Clinton and George Bush, when campaigning for office, promised to promptly move the embassy to Jerusalem. Both men promptly reneged on that promise upon taking office, citing American national interest. The real reason is that the Arabs want to deny any legitimacy to Israel as a nation and the US administration is afraid to annoy the Arabs. The ongoing and indefinite refusal to move the embassy, along with excluding Israel from NATO membership, could certainly be seen by the Arabs as a clear signal that America regards Israel's existence as temporary. In turn, these signals encourage the Arabs to be even more intransigent in their refusal to make peace with Israel.

In 1998, Israel was commemorating the three thousandth anniversary of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel under King David. Martin Indyk, then-US ambassador to Israel, petulantly boycotted that ceremony to show his disapproval. Bill Clinton did not rein in his undiplomatic and outrageous ambassador who, ironically, is also Jewish. And, it must be conceded that, shamefully, the ever self-debasing American Jewish leadership could muster no courage to say anything.

What is the real message from the Bush Administration regarding Hamas? Are we to believe that Bush really objects to any attempt to destroy Israel? We certainly would like to believe that. Or is the real message that those who would destroy Israel should rather follow the successful protocol of deception pioneered by Yasser Arafat, with coaching from the US State Department?

Bertram Cohen and Salomon Benzimra contributed to this article.