no more 'let's pretend'

  1. 5,748 Posts.
    Aug. 13, 2003
    Editorial: No more 'let's pretend'


    In the real world, two Israelis were killed in separate suicide bombings yesterday. It is time to stop playing "let's pretend." The road map, in both its conception and implementation, is based on the presumption that if we, the United States and Israel, pretend hard enough then reality will follow. It is not working.

    In his June 24 speech last year, US President George W. Bush cut through decades of "let's pretend" when he erected two pillars of moral clarity: first that Arafat must go, and second that the obstacle to a Palestinian state is not Israel, but Palestinian tyranny, corruption, and terrorism.

    Since then, the Bush administration has let these pillars crumble, while pretending that they still stand. Rather than the "new leadership, uncompromised by terror" Bush demanded on June 24, we are pretending that Yasser Arafat is gone, and that Mahmoud Abbas is untainted by him.

    As fundamentally, the road map, supposedly constructed to implement the June 24 speech, reverts to the same old attempt to pretend that Israel shares responsibility for being attacked, and pretend that Israel, rather than Palestinian behavior, is an equal obstacle to Palestinian statehood.

    But this is just the beginning. On top of pretending that Arafat is gone and that Israel must share blame for the transformation of the peace process into a war on terrorism, we are now pretending that the Palestinian Authority is on its way to complying with the road map, and that Israel is somehow in breach.

    Why is the PA not mopping up terrorist groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the myriad offshoots of Arafat's own Fatah? Let's pretend it is because Israel is building a fence. Or not releasing enough prisoners. Or dismantling enough outposts.

    Let's stop pretending. We all know that Israel will never, in the current context, release enough prisoners, dismantle the fence or enough outposts to satisfy the Palestinians and this assumes that it was legitimate for the Palestinians to make demands extraneous to the road map in the first place.

    Pretending that Mahmoud Abbas is an independent actor, a democrat, and will wipe out terrorism will not make it so. The "help Abbas" mantra has, if anything, exacerbated the problem by tolerating unending excuses for inaction, even as the infrastructure of terrorism is rebuilt and terrorist attacks increase.

    Yesterday's suicide bombings could easily have killed dozens of Israelis, as could have the many similar attack that have been thwarted since the hudna was declared. The game of tolerating missile attacks, suicide bombings, and shootings so long as "only" one or two people are killed is a cynical and bloody one. The lives that are lost and the families destroyed are not pretend they are real and cannot be made whole again.

    The US and Israel must speak clearly and with one voice: Either the PA crushes the terrorists now, unconditionally, and without excuses, or Israel will do so itself. It should also be understood that if Israel is forced to crush the terrorists by itself, the PA, as a government that harbors terror, will also be replaced.

    It is far from clear that such an ultimatum will impel the PA to act decisively; it is clear that absent such a stark proposition it will not.

    This is not just a test of whether the US and Israel have embarked on a process that does not repeat the mistakes of its failed predecessors. It is a test of the seriousness of the entire war against terrorism. The terrorists want to destroy Israel, not create a Palestinian state along side Israel.

    But even if the cause of a peaceful, democratic Palestinian state is legitimate, how does that cause justify tolerance of terrorism?

    On November 10, 2001, Bush told the United Nations, "There is no such thing as a good terrorist. No national aspiration, no remembered wrong can ever justify the deliberate murder of the innocent.

    Any government that rejects this principle, trying to pick and choose its terrorist friends, will know the consequences."

    It is this doctrine that is being put to the test, here and now.
 
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