By John Podhoretz, April 5, 2002
NOBODY seems to have noticed it in the insta-coverage of George W. Bush’s
landmark speech yesterday on the Israel-Palestinian crisis, but the president just
wrote Yasser Arafat’s political epitaph.
“As Israel steps back, responsible Palestinian leaders and Israel’s Arab
neighbors must step forward and show the world that they are truly on the side
of peace,” he said toward the speech’s conclusion.
Those “responsible Palestinian leaders” do not appear to include Arafat, of
whom the president said dismissively: “The chairman of the Palestinian
Authority has not consistently opposed or confronted terrorists.”
Bush continued: “At Oslo and elsewhere, Chairman Arafat renounced terror as
an instrument of his cause, and he agreed to control it. He’s not done so. The
situation in which he finds himself today is largely of his own making. He’s
missed his opportunities and thereby betrayed the hopes of the people he’s
supposed to lead.”
Sounds kind of definitive, doesn’t it? Arafat “betrayed” his people. He caused
the Israeli incursion and his own isolation. “Since Sept. 11 I’ve delivered this
message: Everyone must choose. You’re either with the civilized world or
you’re with the terrorists.”
Bush seems to have made up his mind about Arafat’s choice. Arafat is with the
Significantly, following Bush’s condemnation of him, Arafat’s name did not
reappear in the speech.
“I call on the Palestinian Authority and all governments in the region to
do everything in their power to stop terrorist activities,” he said. No mention of
“I call on the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority and our
friends in the Arab world to join us in delivering a clear message to terrorists:
Blowing yourself up does not help the Palestinian cause.” Again, no mention of
“Peace is possible,” the president said, “when we break free of old patterns.”
The Arafat pattern is one the president thinks must be broken if there is to be
any hope of peace.
Have we entered the post-Arafat era? We’ll see, but the president certainly
seemed to be sending a message to the Palestinians that he wanted somebody
else to deal with.
There was a lot of talk yesterday that the president’s “green light” to the
Israelis to extirpate Palestinian terror networks had suddenly turned red. That is
nonsense. He did not demand that the Israelis pull out of Palestinian towns
immediately, only that they “begin” their pullout – and that there be no new
incursions. He said he was sending Colin Powell to the region – but not until
“The world expects an immediate cease-fire, immediate resumption of security
cooperation with Israel against terrorism, and an immediate order to crack down
on terrorist networks,” the president said. A cease-fire does not mean unilateral
Israeli action. A cease-fire goes both ways. A cease-fire means an
announcement by the Palestinian Authority that there will be no more suicide bombings.
And it’s perfectly clear what the president means by the “resumption of
security cooperation with Israel” and a “crackdown on terrorist networks.” He
means that those directly in charge of the suicide bombings must be arrested
and detained by Palestinians.
This is not the 180-degree turn in the Bush administration that Andrea Koppel,
CNN’s State Department correspondent, was yammering about yesterday. This
was not much of a turn at all. If anything, the president implicitly endorsed the
notion that the Israelis might do everybody a favor by exiling Arafat.
Yes, the president endorsed a Palestinian state and insisted on a halt to Israeli
settlement activity. But that’s been basic U.S. policy for several years now, and
there’s nothing wrong with making explicit what’s been implicit. After all, Israel
too has committed itself in theory to the creation of a Palestinian state
following U.N. resolutions 242 and 338.
But the president made crystal-clear that there can be no peace unless there is
an end to Palestinian terror. And no peace means no state, since a state can
only come about when there is peace. “Progress is impossible when nations
emphasize their grievances and ignore their opportunities,” the president said.
“The storms of violence cannot go on. Enough is enough.”
Funny, that’s just what the Israelis have been saying.