As a Middle East analyst and self-described evangelical
Christian, Michael Evans has been hard at work promoting President
Bush’s plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The president of the Jerusalem Prayer Team, Evans has written
two New York Times best-selling books in the past year and pens a
weekly column for an online newspaper, in which he promotes
Bush’s policies for the region.

Among the policies that Evans advocates is Bush’s refusal
to deal with Yasser Arafat, president of the Palestinian
Authority.

“Fundamentally what you have with President Bush is a zero
tolerance for terrorists,” Evans said, calling Arafat
“the godfather of terrorism.” He added that
Bush’s policy forced Palestinians to seek representation from
more moderately aligned politicians.

For Evans, a Kerry administration means a repetition of policies
pursued by former President Bill Clinton — the first
president to invite Arafat to the United States for peace
negotiations.

“Clinton began negotiating with a terrorist. That is an
appeasement policy … providing an open door to terrorists
like Arafat,” Evans said. “That policy has been totally
embraced by Kerry.”

But Kerry’s website states that the Democratic
presidential candidate will continue to push for reformed
Palestinian leadership, saying Arafat is unlikely to be an ally in
the peace process. The Massachusetts senator has also said he
supports the construction of an Israeli wall in the West Bank as a
defense against Palestinian attacks and has condemned the
International Court of Justice ruling that the wall violates
international law.

Ron Stockton, a political science professor at the
University’s Dearborn campus, said U.S. policy in the past
has been to “intensely engage” in the conflict,
including recognizing Israel, as it existed prior to 1967 —
the year Israel occupied territories in the West Bank and Gaza. He
said Kerry’s plan was favorable.

“Bush has backed off and left it to Sharon. This is a
major diversion from existing American policy,” Stockton
said.

“(We) have to work with the Israelis as well as the
Palestinians, so I do think (Kerry) would be more active in
engaging both sides,” he said.

Stockton added that Bush was too close to Sharon to enact policy
satisfactory to both parties. “He basically endorsed
Sharon’s building of the barrier and his involvement in
Gaza,” he said.

Kerry has been somewhat inconsistent in his proposals for
resolving the Mideast conflict, especially with regard to the
security wall. While he has voiced support for the security wall,
he also told the Arab American Institute last year that the
building of the wall was “counterproductive.”

“I know how disheartened Palestinians are by the Israeli
government’s decision to build a barrier off the ‘Green
Line,’ cutting deeply into Palestinian areas,” Kerry
said last year. “We do not need another barrier to
peace.”

For this reason and others, Evans said, “the best hope for
the conflict is under Bush.”

While sensitive issues such as the refugee problem, construction
of the wall in the West Bank, the status of Jerusalem and
Israel’s pullout from the West Bank and Gaza remain to be
solved, the primary issue that must be settled is how negotiations
will begin and proceed.

Despite Kerry and Bush both expressing pro-Israeli sentiments,
support for the Security Wall as well as a need for new Palestinian
leadership, Evans represents Republicans who fear that Kerry may
take a Clinton-esque approach of getting Arafat on the negotiating
table, sending mixed signals to “terrorists,” and
undermining the importance of reforming Palestinian politics before
embarking on the roadmap to peace.

This roadmap is the official document approved by the United
States, United Nations, European Union and Russia in 2002 to
implement peace within the region in three steps: transformation of
Palestinian government, transition to democracy and finally
Palestinian statehood.

Although the original plan scheduled the third step to be
underway by this year and completed by 2005, in reality the peace
process has been stuck at step one with experts predicting that it
will stay that way until Arafat is unseated, allowing more moderate
politicians to rise to power and reform Palestinian politics.

But opponents argue that the United States, along with th rest
of the international community needs to play a more dominant role
in transforming Palestinian politics.

Another point on which Kerry will be strong is enlisting the
help of other countries to deal with the problem, Stockton
said.

However, Bush supporters feel this may be a sign of
weakness.

“I’ve learned the only one thing that terrorists
respect is power, and if you show signs of weakness they will use
terrorism as a negotiating tool,” Evans said. “I think
Kerry will make terrorism a civil rights problem like Clinton did.
Kerry’s policy would jeopardize the war on terrorism and
security of America by redefining the war on terrorism as a civil
rights problem.”

Ray Tanter, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations as well
as a former member of the National Security Council under President
Ronald Reagan, added that the solution was to reform Palestinian
institutions with the rise of new leaders after the death of
Arafat.

“Arafat stands in the face of reform,” said Tanter,
describing Arafat as “immovable.”

Tanter also criticized Kerry’s plan, saying, “If
Kerry were to become president, he would pay more attention to the
peace process and the road map with less attention to reform of the
Palestinian institutions. He would not make any progress and would
eventually come around to the same policy as President
Bush.”

Partisan fears that Democrats may take too loose an approach in
dealing with Arafat or that Republicans may be too closely tied
with Israel are heightened by the two men who will be advising Bush
or Kerry on Israeli policies in the next four years.

If Bush wins, Elliot Abrams will most likely continue to be
senior director for Near East and North African Affairs. Abrams, a
longtime supporter of Israel, who was appointed to the position in
2002, was an assistant Secretary of State in the Reagan
administration.

Stockton said Abrams has little experience in the Middle East
affairs and his “strange partisan” views and support
for Israel’s right wing Likud party make him unfit for the
job.

Arab American leaders have also pointed to the appointment of
Abrams as a setback to Palestinian interests.

President of the Arab American Institute James Zogby said
Abram’s appointment in 2002 was “a very dangerous
message to the Arab world” and adds to the “lock that
the neocon set now has on all the major instruments of
decision-making…”

But inside Israel, it seems that most citizens of Israel are
happy with the policies put in place by Abrams and President Bush.
Last week 10 newspapers from as many countries conducted
“elections” to see whether their countrymen would vote
for Bush or Kerry if they were voting in the American election.
Israelis were one of the two citizenries supporting a Bush win,
with only 24 percent voting for Kerry.

Evans, who has traveled many times to Israel and for the last 30
years has maintained personal relationships with Israeli prime
ministers, said he attributes this to the fact that the Israeli
people feel the war on terrorism — specifically, the war in
Iraq — makes them safer in their country.

From the Republican side, fears that a Kerry administration
would favor a policy of negotiations between Israelis and the
current Palestinian administration are also heightened because of
Kerry’s point man on Israel: Jay Footlik.

The former advisor to the Clinton administration played a role
in the signing of the Oslo Accords as well as the 2000 Camp David
talks. His role in the past is everything Republicans are against:
negotiating with the current Palestinian authority instead of
defeating them with a show of power.

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