July 6, 2001
By Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Queens LI), the ranking Democrat
on the House International Relations Subcomittee on the Middle East and South Asia.
IN THE TWO WEEKS following June 13, the first day of the implementation of
the Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire agreement worked out by CIA Director George
Tenet, there were 169 attacks on Israeli citizens involving gunfire,
mortars, grenades and roadside bombs.
During an address given in New York on June 25, Israeli Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon counted 15 terror attacks on Israelis since his departure from Israel
the day before.
As Sharon pointed out then, “There has been no cease-fire, not even for a
Tragically, this statement remains true.
President George W. Bush’s response to this situation has been to announce
that “Progress is being made.” The president noted that this progress “isn’t as
fast as we’d like,” but suggests that yes, in fact, “peace is closer today than it
was yesterday.” Now, a reduction in the murder of Israelis is a good thing, and
the administration should certainly encourage this kind of progress.
But is it a cease-fire? No. Not even close.
The commendable deal worked out by Director Tenet is very clear about what a
cease-fire requires from the Palestinians: “The will
move immediately to apprehend, question, and incarcerate terrorists in the West
Bank and Gaza … he PA will stop any Palestinian security officials from
inciting, aiding, abetting, or conducting attacks against Israeli targets, including
Very clearly, these steps have not been taken, and yet the administration
seems prepared to support Palestinian demands that confidence-building
measures not only begin in their absence, but that the Israelis return to
negotiations while under fire.
Such an absurd conclusion is implicit in Secretary of State Colin Powell’s June
27 remark, “at the end of the day, it is the parties that will have to decide
whether there is an adequate level of quiet and lack of violence in order to
move forward. That leader is Prime Minister Sharon.”
In other words, is Israel going to be a petty nitpicker, holding up much
desired confidence building measures and negotiations by insisting that
Palestinians stop killing Jews as a precondition?
Secretary Powell noted that “President Bush was speaking … of a
realistic level of violence, something that makes it clear … to all sides that there
has been a change, that the cycle of violence has been broken.”
What is the administration saying? That “we should expect a certain
level of violence from these Palestinians; they can’t really be expected to fully
understand the term ‘cease-fire.’
Let’s be realistic.” Wasn’t it President Bush who campaigned against the soft
bigotry of low expectations? U.S. support, and especially congressional
support, of the Mideast peace process, including recognition of the Palestinian
leadership as a partner for peace, has always been predicated on an absolute
and unconditional cessation of violence by the Palestinians as a means to
resolve their conflict with the State of Israel.
For eight years, this standard has been universally acknowledged as the sine
qua non for America’s ongoing role as the patron and honest broker in the
America needs to have, and make plain its continued and unremitting
commitment to the old standard: No violence.
Period. No violence today and no violence tomorrow. No violence in
Israel and no violence in the West Bank and Gaza.
Until the United States makes this principle absolutely clear to the Palestinians
in words and in deeds, we can surely anticipate a “realistic” level of violence.
And how do you quantify a “realistic” level?
Exactly as much violence as the Palestinians calculate they can get away
with without alienating the White House.