IF PRESS ACCOUNTS ARE TO BE BELIEVED, President Bush is determined to commit his administration to the recognition of a "provisional" Palestinian state as soon as there is a moment when its unveiling -- not to say its logic -- is not shattered by yet another murderous terrorist attack against Israeli civilians.
On their face, these reports seem implausible. After all, in the months since September 11 in particular, President Bush has conveyed too clearly his appreciation of several principles that completely conflict with such an initiative:
1) Israel is a valued ally in the front lines on the war on terrorism. Unlike Yasser Arafat and any Palestinian state with which he is associated -- to say nothing of Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, PFLP, etc., Israel is squarely "with us" in that global struggle. Weakening Israel (e.g., by compelling it to surrender territory and sovereignty to yet another radical, irredentist Arab despotic state) will not help us win the war on terror; to the contrary, it will create new, undesirable and wholly unnecessary vulnerabilities.
2) Terrorism must be defeated, not be rewarded. There is no getting around it: As Charles Krauthammer makes clear in a powerful column published in yesterday’s Washington Post, granting the Palestinians a state under present circumstances -- after nearly two years of war and without any credible basis for believing it will be ended -- is the most transparent incentive to further violence since, well, Israel abandoned its defensive security zone in Lebanon.
3) The United States believes Israel has a legitimate right to self-defense and supports the Jewish State in its exercise of that right. It is implausible, to say the least, that the United States would be able to support for very long Israeli efforts to root out the terrorist infrastructure that will assuredly prosper in a provisional Palestinian state insofar as doing so would entail the violation of internationally recognized borders.
Divisions that will inevitably arise between not only the United Nations and Israel but the U.S. and the Jewish State are all the more dangerous because they may provide not only a legal casus belli, but an Arab perception that a favorable correlation of forces has finally been achieved that will result in precisely the sort of regional war President Bush so clearly wants to avoid. This will be all the more likely if, as Mr. Krauthammer warns is predictable, the Palestinian state asserts its right to import firepower and forge alliances that will maximize both the inflammability and the destructiveness of such a conflict.
It can only be hoped that President Bush will heed his own instincts and eschew the sophistry of those whose idée fixe delusions about "peace processes" and "land for peace" have brought Israel to the present, perilous pass. If so, he will confine his "plans" for Mideast peace to a reaffirmation of America's desire to achieve that goal and a recognition that it cannot impose one through such seductive but ultimately disastrously futile ideas as a provisional Palestinian state or the even more benighted idea of inserting U.S. monitors/peacekeepers into the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.