Since the end of major combat operations in Iraq, President Bush has tried to broker peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians by insisting that both parties adhere to his “roadmap to peace.” While this attempt by Bush to gain stability in the Middle East by quelling Israeli-Palestinian tensions was brought to the table with good intentions in mind, it is now clearer than ever that the President must rethink U.S. policy with respect to Israel. It is now time for Bush to put the “roadmap” on hold and let Ariel Sharon proceed with security measures with no U.S. restrictions. In light of recent terrorist attacks against Israel, it is clear that the Palestinians have no intention of cracking down on the terrorist groups that preside in the West Bank and Gaza. Until the Palestinian Authority makes real attempts to eradicate rather than negotiate with terror groups, the United States has no business telling Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon how his government should secure its people.
At this point in time, President Bush must take advice from fellow Republicans such as House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas and other conservatives when it comes to U.S.-Israeli policy. Many conservative Republicans understand that unless Palestinian terror resides, there is no way of achieving a peace settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. An understanding such as DeLay’s is needed when making U.S. policy towards Israel. When DeLay states, “The organizations behind the attacks will not be tolerated or bargained with. They must be dismantled and destroyed,” DeLay understands the harsh reality of the situation in the Middle East. It makes no sense for the state of Israel to give away more concessions without the Palestinian Authority destroying terrorist groups.
The new revelations regarding the departure of Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas should force Israel to expedite its security initiatives since Yasser Arafat will once again reclaim all of the power in the West Bank and Gaza. Arafat, who has proven himself to be a corrupt ally of terrorists, is not a figure that Israel can trust in its quest for a peaceful resolution in the contested territories. America must continue to treat Arafat as an irreverent figure and insist on a change in the Palestinian leadership before continuing with the “roadmap.” Israel’s fight against terror should be seen as no different from America’s fight against terror, as both America and Israel are free democratic nations that are fighting a common evil enemy. Bush must not pressure Israel to deal with the Palestinians until the Palestinians prove that they can eliminate terror in the contested territories. Since the beginning of the “roadmap” process, the Palestinian Authority has negotiated with Hamas and other terror groups rather than destroying them, forcing Israel to target Hamas members in the West Bank and Gaza.
However, even after the setbacks that the “roadmap” has caused, Bush remains a great believer in the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. Throughout his first term as president, Bush has been a great ally of Israel and its Likud government led by Sharon. His refusal to deal with Yasser Arafat and his belief in Israel’s right to defend itself should remain in the minds of all Americans when they think about which political party can be the strongest defender of Israel. Americans would be naive to believe that the Democratic Party could sufficiently protect Israel, as one imagines the sentiment toward Israel that would be seen at a rally for presidential candidate Howard Dean. In addition, throughout the primary season no Democratic candidate, even those who claim to be supporters of Israel, has taken a position on the Middle East conflict that would be regarded more pro-Israel than the current president’s position.
With the renewed hostility in the contested territories, and the resignation of Abbas, the Middle East will become more volatile in the coming months. During this time, it is imperative that the United States respect Israel’s right to self defense and maintain its current position with regard to Arafat. If Arafat emerges with control of the Palestinian Authority in the weeks after the departure of Abbas and refuses to relinquish his power, Israel will have no choice but to take drastic security measures in the West Bank and Gaza in order to protect its citizens from the terror that Arafat condones. In the event that such measures are taken, the United States must stand by Israel’s side in Israel’s war on terrorism.
Singer and Tamaroff are LSA juniors and respectively, co-president and vice president of the Jewish College Republicans