The proposed “roadmap to peace” in the Middle East has an intrinsic unknown. Peace must involve at least two parties. On one side we have the Israelis who are genuinely interested in peace, but who is on the other side? With whom are the Israeli supposed to make peace? Unfortunately, it cannot be the “Palestinians” Arabs because such a “peace” would be meaningless. The “Palestinian” Arabs, under their current political leadership are not a stable, politically independent entity with which a long-term peace can be made. We have witnessed the wrangling between Arafat and his hand picked Prime Minister who is still lacking the necessary authority to make meaningful political commitments. Mahmoud Abbas certainly does not meet the expectations laid out explicitly by President Bush in his speech of June 24, 2002.
To create a new Arab state, irrespective if its borders are permanent or temporary, with sole purpose of having a legitimate partner for tenuous peace negotiations with some local Arabs seems unreasonable. It would be interpreted in the Arab world as a reward for indiscriminant brutal terror, and an encouragement for continued terror against the State of Israel. In any case it is unlikely to eliminate Arab terror. Even if the “Palestinian” leadership changed significantly, which it does not seem to do, and the Arabs in the “disputed territories” eliminated their terrorist organizations to form a genuinely demilitarized state, which does not yet seem in the cards, Israel would remain the target for Arab terror and potential Arab military aggression. Would there have been a difference if Hammas’ headquarter in Gaza were closed and Hammas terrorists arrived then from the UK with British passports and blew themselves up near a nightclub, as it just happened in Tel Aviv?
Arab terror will continue as long as Arab Islamism maintains its grip on the Middle East, even after al-Queda was eradicated by the US, and Iraq was neutralized, at least for a while. Let us remember that many of the recent clashes between the IDF and the Arab terrorists are at the Egyptian border, which is the major conduit of military supplies for the “Palestinian” terror organizations. This flow of arms would not take place without the knowledge and support of the Egyptian leadership. The training of “Palestinian” terrorists in the Baka’a Valley and the supply of military materiel from Lebanon into Gaza would not have occurred without the active support of Iran and Syria. As these lines are written, in spite of US diplomatic pressure, the Syrians are still splitting hairs between terrorists killing Jews (seemingly sanctioned by Syria) and non-Jews. In brief, until the regional conflict between the Arab and Jewish nations is resolved, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, of any kind, might critically restrict Israel’s political maneuverability and military defensive options.
It seems now that even Collin Powell, who initiated the now dysfunctional “Quartet”, which the US State Department incorporated as a decisive element in its recently published “Roadmap,” realizes this. This is the reason for Powell’s current round of talks with the leaders in the surrounding Arab states before coming to discuss his “Roadmap” with the Israelis. The “Quartet” idea was part of Powell’s diplomatic strategy in an attempt to receive the UN’s endorsement to remove Saddam Hussein from power. That attempt failed miserably, as we all saw, and the non-American partners in the “Quartet” proved to be treacherous enemies of the United States in addition to their traditional animosity to the Jewish state.
Peace with the “Palestinian” Arabs is meaningless because they are a minute part of a large nation, which is in a continual state of war with the Jewish nation from the day Israel was established. This was before there were any “occupation” or “settlements”, which are considered now major hurdles on the “Roadmap to peace”. That Arab-Jewish war is not limited to an area west of the River Jordan, it extends all over the Arab world where Jews were massacred by the thousands, more than killed by Arab terror in the Land of Israel since 1978. The “Palestinian” Arabs are not the only Arab enemies of the State of Israel.
In the 1935-39 “disturbances” Arabs terrorists, trained, equipped and supported by Iraq, murdered 630 Jews in Mandatory Palestine -- these were not “Palestinian” Arabs.
In 1948 five Arab armies attacked the fledgling State of Israel – these were not “Palestinian” Arabs.
In 1953-56 Arab infiltrators from Egypt indiscriminately murdered Israeli Jews -- these were not “Palestinian” Arabs.
In 1967 four Arab armies tried to eradicate the Jewish state -- these were not “Palestinian” Arabs.
In 1973 two Arab armies tried a sneak attack on Israel to accomplish what they failed to do in 1967 -- these were not “Palestinian” Arabs.
In 1991 there was an unprovoked attack of Iraqi scud missiles on Israeli urban centers -- these were not “Palestinian” Arabs.
During the 1981-2002 period huge amounts of money and war materiel, plus numerous “volunteers” were smuggled into the “disputed territories” from different Arab counties, particularly from Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Saudia, to demoralize the Israelis by a war of attrition. Islamistic Iran joined this Arab war effort, declaring it a “holy” war of Islam against the “infidel” Jews, who according to Qur’an are descendents of monkeys and pigs. This war, which was dramatically intensified after the Oslo accords, and even more so following the Camp David incipient Israeli concessions to the Arabs, has cost so far more than 1250 Israeli lives, predominantly civilians, including men, women, children and babies.
“Palestinian” Arabs took a major part in this latest phase of the Arab war, providing most of the terrorist manpower, including more than 250 suicide-bombers. However, it is clear that without the tremendous flood of Arab support in money, supplies, training and ideological incitement (mainly from Cairo and Riyadh) the despotic leadership of the Palestinian Authority could not have maintained an effective war of attrition against the Jewish state. To maintain this war, the “Palestinian” Arabs sacrificed their personal freedom and livelihood. Instead of enjoying a standard of living unmatched by the masses in any Arab country – as they did before the Intefada began -- they live now in despicable misery. Ironically, a major part of the monetary compensation of these underpaid mercenaries, who are ready to die for the “Arab Cause” (ridding the Near East from non-Muslims), ended up in secret Swiss bank accounts of the “Palestinian” corrupt leadership.
The US Administration’s “Roadmap” calls for a halt of terror and democratization of the “Palestinian” Arab society. However, even if these goals were achieved, which is quite doubtful, a peace agreement with the Palestinian Arabs would be worthless as long as more than 98% of the Arabs remain in a perpetual state of explicit or implicit war with the State of Israel.
What could prevent the Arabs from repeating the military assaults of 1948, 1967 and 1973? One often hears talk about internationally recognized borders of Israel – but will Norway, Sweden, Germany, Russia, the Ukraine, or France send their troops within hours to repel an Arab aggression against Israel? At best they will condemn the Arabs in the Security Council, just as they condemned Iraq, while supplying Saddam with additional weapon systems to frustrate an impending US military attack; luckily that treacherous aid to the Iraqi tyrant proved ineffective. International borders, recognized or not, are only as good as they can be defended against aggressors. The 1948 armistice line (the June 4th 1967 “border-line”) is indefensible. If Israel faced an all out Arab attack from the north, south and from the “Palestinian” territory along the 1948 armistice line, likely using chemical and biological warfare agents, it would be overrun within a few days. Judging from Arab rhetoric and past behavior, very few Jews would remain alive in their homeland following an Arab conquest. As repeatedly declared by Arab leaders, the Arabs are not seeking Israeli surrender, their aim is eradication of the Jews and their state.
Such a devastating attack could come with 2, 10 or even 20 years from the time a “Palestinian” state has been established. In any case, the Jewish state could not survive under those circumstances. The enemies of Israel in the Arab world and in Europe (France and Russia, in particular) know this very well and are insisting, therefore, that Israel becomes strategically indefensible. The question remains if President Bush, who has just recently experienced similar duplicity from the same quarters, will not instruct his State Department to scrap and utterly redesign the “Roadmap to peace”.
Peace by itself is meaningless if it ultimately leads to a far bloodier conflict. The classical case is the “peace in our time” in 1938. The 1979 peace treaty with Egypt did not prevent that country from becoming a major supporter of Arab anti-Israeli terror, after Sadat’s assassination in 1981. Without Egyptian active help, including incessant anti-Jewish incitement, Arab indiscriminant terrorism against Israeli civilians would not have occurred, and the chances for a long lasting peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict would have been so much better. The unilateral peaceful withdrawal from South Lebanon in May 2000 encouraged the PLO to launch its attack in September. That Israeli move was not reciprocated by Syria that continues to maintain an occupation force of 20,000 troops in Lebanon. No Arab or European country has protested that occupation.
The March 2002 Saudi offer in Beirut to “normalize” the relationship between the Arab countries and Israel in return for Israel’s complete withdrawal to the indefensible 1948 armistice line, was meaningless for three reasons: First, it did not offer recognition of the Land of Israel as the historical homeland of the Jewish people, second, it required Israel to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of a new Arab state, which amounts to stabbing the Jewish nation in its heart, and third, it would have left Israel at the mercy of the Arabs, who could abolish that “normalization,” renewing hostilities at the drop of a hat. However, this offer unambiguously confirmed that the Arab-Israeli conflict is between the Jewish state in the Jewish homeland and the Arab nation at large.
Let us assume that the Iraqi regime will be non-aggressive in the near future (they will have a lot to rebuild in the post-Saddam era), and a similar change in Iran will remove that country from being in league with the Arabs. This still leaves the threat of the Arab Islamic militants in Cairo, Riyadh, Khartoum, Damascus and Tripoli, in addition to those in remote Arab states. Those despotic Arab states will have a hard time to tolerate a truly democratic Arab “Palestinian” society for fear that it will destabilize their own regimes. They will also have a hard time to give up the political glue – the common open hatred of Jews and Americans, which prevents an open struggle between Saudia and Egypt (after Iraq has been neutralized) for the hegemony of the Arab nation. In the long run it will be Egypt with its much larger population and multitude of academic institutions (including the leading Islamic theological schools) that will dominate the region. This will certainly be true when the Saudi oil runs out and/or the demand for oil diminishes significantly.
With whom are the Israeli supposed to make peace? With Egypt! But this must be a true peace that will last longer than the leader who signed it. Such a peace can be genuine only when a revolutionary regime change will take place in Cairo and Egypt adopts a truly Western form of government, including Western ethical values. Separation of Islam from politics would be essential. Once this peace takes effect it would become the “central station” on the new political “Roadmap for peace” in the Middle East. And not only in the Middle East -- it would also help to resolve the much more dangerous Islamic-Western conflict. The territorial disputes of the Israelis with the “Palestinian” Arabs will then be readily settled to the satisfaction of all parties concerned.
Such a dramatic change in Egypt is not a remote possibility, because Egypt, like Iran under the Shah, has been substantially westernized before Nasser came up with his pan-Arab dream. An unselfish, secular Realpolitiker like Anwar Sadat may bring Egypt into the Twenty First Century. Such a leader should not hesitate to challenge the Islamic fundamentalist clergy and even support a significant reform in Islam, making it more compatible with Western culture. That would be a realistic starting point on the “Roadmap to peace.”
Michael Anbar , Ph.D., is a Professor of Biophysics and Chairman of Dept. of Biophysical Sciences at the School of Medicine, University of Buffalo (1977-2002, now retired). Previously, he was Director of Technical Program Development, at the Stanford Research Institute.