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A fatal pattern of behavior

By Evelyn Gordon Jerusalem Post June 16, 2003

Much has been written lately, both here and abroad, about President George Bush’s sudden metamorphosis into Bill Clinton with regard to his handling of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Actually, the comparison is unjust to Clinton, who in this at least (if in nothing else) was no hypocrite: While Bush condemns Israel for targeting Hamas leaders even as US forces seek to do the same with Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida, Clinton appeased America’s enemies almost as diligently as he wanted Israel to appease its own.

But distressing though Bush’s about-face is, the fact remains that he does not ultimately determine Israeli policy which is why his sudden reincarnation as Clinton is far less worrisome than Ariel Sharon’s sudden reincarnation as Yitzhak Rabin.

Despite the Right’s accusations, this reincarnation is not evidenced by Sharon’s ongoing evacuation of settlement outposts even as Jews are being slaughtered in the streets: Having in his Aqaba speech deliberately portrayed the evacuations as necessitated by Israeli law rather than as a concession to the Palestinians, he cannot now credibly claim that Palestinian terror justifies halting them.

Where the reincarnation was evident, however, was in Sharon’s speech to the Likud Central Committee on June 8, where he adopted precisely the same tactic Rabin used so disastrously during the Oslo process. Rather than attempting to adjust his diplomatic program to reality, Sharon rewrote reality in an effort to justify his diplomatic program.

At this meeting, for instance, he declared: “The terror war launched against us 1,000 days ago has failed. I tell you today that the victory we aimed for is at hand.”

That is a truly astonishing statement, given that Palestinians killed at least 24 Israelis in the 10 days following the Aqaba summit (in two other cases the murderers’ identity is not yet known). Maintained, this pace would translate into 876 dead Israelis a year more than have been killed in the entire 32 months of conflict to date.

Admittedly most of these deaths occurred after Sharon’s speech but even the much lower pre-Aqaba death toll (50 Israelis killed in three months) hardly constitutes a resounding victory.
Equally fallacious was Sharon’s claim that “the enemy was vanquished. His plans were thwarted.”

In fact, Sharon’s adoption of the US-backed “road map” was a defeat for Israel’s positions: The Palestinians received a pledge from the entire world, including Israel, of statehood by the end of this year, without having to concede a single issue of importance to Jerusalem not even lip-service recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, not even a lip-service promise to actively fight terror.

MOST OUTRAGEOUS of all, perhaps, was Sharon’s declaration that “the Palestinians’ terrorist regime has been replaced by a new government that has stated before the whole world that it has abandoned the way of terror. This is the first fruit of our victory.”

Yet that is precisely the same pledge the Palestinians made in five previous signed agreements the 1993 Oslo Accord, the 1994 Cairo Agreement, the 1995 Oslo 2 Agreement, the 1997 Hebron Agreement and the 1998 Wye Agreement!
Given that all these pledges proved not worth the paper they were printed on, one might think Sharon would blush to declare yet another such pledge a victory even if the new Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, were demonstrably sincere.

In fact, Abbas has already made it clear that he is not sincere: He has repeatedly and publicly proclaimed that, just like Yasser Arafat, he will not lift a hand against the terrorist organizations and this pledge he has thus far honored.

Instead he has been trying to negotiate a cease-fire under which, far from giving up their arms, the terrorists would join the Palestinian security services, be paid official PA salaries and receive CIA training in how best to use their weapons!

Sharon’s June 8 speech cannot even be dismissed as a momentary aberration: In a conference call with American Jewish leaders the week before, his bureau chief and confidant, Dov Weisglass, evinced a similarly Osloesque determination to disregard Palestinian noncompliance.

Though the cabinet formally decided that a “condition for progress will be the complete cessation of terror, violence and incitement,” Weisglass announced that, in practice, Israel will demand no such thing: It merely wants terrorism reduced “to a tolerable level” (and how many deaths per week is that?).

As for the road map’s unequivocal demand that “all official Palestinian institutions end incitement against Israel,” Jerusalem, Weisglass said, has no idea when or if the Palestinians will honor this clause nor, he implied, does it care.

Even Sharon’s willingness to continue taking occasional military action, such as last week’s strike at Abdel-Aziz Rantisi, offers no comfort: Both Rabin and Shimon Peres did the same. Rabin expelled 415 Hamas leaders to Lebanon, while Peres ordered the (successful) assassination of Hamas “engineer” Yihye Ayash.

In both cases the military moves were primarily an effort to make the public overlook the diplomatic retreats.

Thus a mere three weeks after adopting the road map, Sharon has also begun adopting the same fatal patterns of behavior that Rabin and Peres did with Oslo. Rather than requiring the Palestinians to live up to their commitments, he has decided to declare half of these commitments unimportant and to whitewash violations of the rest.

In so doing, he has ensured that the road map will end as disastrously as Oslo did.

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