Plight of Palestine

On August 15, 2005 the world witnessed, and for the most part, praised one of the biggest mistakes ever made in the history of the Middle East. After the international community, lead by the Israeli and US governments, acknowledged that terrorism works and is a legitimate method of fighting for independence, the Israeli government expelled settlers in Gaza Strip and part of the West Bank from their homes in order to make room for a Palestinian state. This past weekend the world witnessed the beginning of “peaceful coexistence” between Palestine and Israel: Palestinians launched rockets into Israel and Israelis responded with targeted assassinations. Sharon’s platform in the 2000 election against Ehud Barak was founded on the principles of the conservative Likud party. At the top of his agenda was Israel’s security. He claimed he would not give up land, the Israeli people would not be forced to withdraw from settlements, and terrorism would not be rewarded with a Palestinian state. Prime Minister Sharon has veered far from his promised road. So, what happened to Ariel Sharon? Perhaps his memory is suffering, and he has forgotten about the failed Oslo accords. But he would have to be blind as well to not see the Israeli citizens whose lives have been taken in suicide bombings and deaf to mute Hamas’ cries to push Israel into the sea. Unfortunately, Sharon’s apparent signs of aging do not explain his change of course. Something else happened. To put it simply, President George Bush happened. Bush campaigned as a great friend to Israel, but in the face of a US policy disaster he sacrificed one of our closest allies. The pressure that the US put on Israel to pullout of Israeli territories was more forceful than any vows against terrorism, condemnation from the ICJ, or critical UN resolutions. Since its inception as a state in 1948, the United States has been Israel’s closest and most powerful ally. Because the US is such a crucial ally for Israel (without this alliance, the existence of Israel would be in doubt), Sharon felt obliged to concede to Bush’s proposals to create a Palestinian state. But why, with terrorism as such a critical issue, would the United States advocate the creation of a state that will likely fall into the hands of the Lebanon-based terrorism group Hamas? Bush has sufficiently messed up Iraq. The country is not free and the lives of its citizens are mired by constant violence and high unemployment. The creation of a Palestinian state is Bush’s cheap shot at a short-term victory in the Middle East. The decision to give the Palestinians a state has little regard for the best interests of Israel; she is already surrounded by her fair share of threatening Arab. The creation of Palestine was for the benefit of the US, and more specifically, for Bush to put on his short “accomplishment” list. But the irony of US support for a Palestinian state is mind-baffling. In the days immediately after the pullout, members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad celebrated, each claiming responsibility for the victory. Terrorists clearly did not see this historic event as a victory for democracy or any other of the freedoms we claim to be fighting for in Iraq. Palestinians fought for statehood using terrorism and achieved their aims. Bush and Sharon can claim whatever victories they desire, but this does not change the way terrorists view the pullout. Terrorists work within international networks. When the international community rewards one group of terrorists, others are rewarded as well with the knowledge that the democracies are weak and ready to make concessions. By rewarding Palestinian terrorists the US sent a clear message to the Iraqi terrorists: keep fighting – you can succeed. Bush’s anti-terrorist and pro-democracy rhetoric means nothing when his policy is soft and his actions are weak. The language of war is one of force. Weaknesses are detected b the enemy and inevitably exploited. During the past weekend Palestinians launched Kassam rockets from Gaza into Israel. Violence continued. An Israeli was kidnapped and brutally murdered at the hands of Hamas. Israel resumed a policy of targeted assassinations. And finally, Hamas announced a ceasefire on Sunday night. We must not have illusions; Hamas ceasefires don’t have a history of longevity. Hamas though, not Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, declared the ceasefire because the Palestinian Authority is powerless when it comes to controlling the terrorist factions of Palestinian society. Not all Palestinians are terrorists, but a Palestinian state will inevitably end up in terrorists’ hands. Undoubtedly this will be detrimental to US attempts to spread democracy as the terrorists in Iraq pick up the pace with reassured supporters and the reaffirmed hope we provided them.