"Mideast Road Trap"
Frank J. Gaffney Jr.
May 6, 2003
Newt Gingrich recently precipitated a firestorm of controversy
he said the Department of State was working to sabotage President
security policies. As a case in point, he cited the State Department's
machinations behind the "road map" for peace between Israel and the
Palestinian front in the Arab-Israeli conflict:
"The State Department invention of a Quartet for
peace negotiations defies everything the United States has learned
France, Russia and the United Nations. After the bitter lessons of the
five months, it is unimaginable that the United States would
accept a system in which the U.N., the European Union and Russia could
routinely outvote President Bush's positions by three to one (or four
one if the State Department voted its cultural beliefs against the
"This is a deliberate and systematic effort to undermine the
president's policies procedurally by ensuring they will consistently be
watered down and distorted by the other three members. This is worse
the U.N. inspections process a clear disaster for American diplomacy."
The former House speaker is, of course, absolutely correct in
that the negotiating format the State Department has conjured up over
past year amounts to a stacked deck stacked against Mr. Bush and the
principles and preconditions for recognition of a Palestinian state
announced last June.
Unfortunately, the problem is not simply a procedural arrangement
whereby four entities profoundly hostile to Israel are in charge so
that they are hoping to be able to dictate terms to the Israelis. This
assuredly is not the negotiating process Mr. Bush had in mind when he
offered his vision for a real Mideast peace nearly a year ago.
Given the quartet's composition and proclivities, however, it is
hardly surprising that the content of its road map also deviates
from what Mr. Bush proposed at that time. This is evident in particular
two critical counts:
First, Mr. Bush made very clear last June that a new generation
leaders "untainted by terror" would have to come to the fore in the
Palestinian community via democratic means. The clear meaning of this
precondition was that neither Yasser Arafat nor anybody associated with
terrorist kleptocracy could be considered a legitimate interlocutor in
new, reformed peace process.
Career bureaucrats like those running the State Department who,
best, can scarcely conceal their contempt for the people elected to run
country are fond of saying "What the president meant to say is ..."
In this case, State and its quartet partners have contorted the
president's intention so as to enable one of the Palestinian caudillo's
most faithful lieutenants, Mahmoud Abbas, to be handpicked by Mr.
but nonetheless represented as a real partner for peace with the
Mr. Arafat and Abu Mazen (Mr. Abbas' nom de guerre it tells you
something about this man's commitment to peace with Israel that he has
guerilla nickname) even performed a little drama designed to
for Western consumption that the lieutenant, not his boss, would now
control the official security apparatus and, as a result, be able to
down on Palestinian terrorists. This gambit was reminiscent of another
Mr. Arafat's theatrical performances a few years back when, to
his commitment to live in peace with Israel, he was supposed to secure
elimination of dozens of provisions in the Palestinian Charter calling
the destruction of Jews and their state. Just as these provisions
unchanged to this day, power still rests in the hands of those who
jihad against Israel.
Second, Mr. Bush also indicated last June that Israel would not
expected to accept a Palestinian state unless and until terrorism
be waged against the Jewish state. But the quartet had other plans. It
adopted a timetable for recognition of a state of Palestine that was
geared, not to an end of the threat to Israel, but to a predetermined
calendar: The boundaries of a provisional state to be fixed by as early
the end of 2003; a full-fledged and internationally recognized state
later than 2005. And while the Palestinians would be required to
visible efforts ... to arrest, disrupt and restrain individuals and
conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis" ("visible" being
operative term, not "successful"), the Israelis would be obliged from
get-go to make tangible and possibly irreversible steps. For example,
must pull out of forward defensive positions in Palestinian areas, stop
further growth of settlements, etc.
In short, the road map offered by the quartet appears more likely
prove a "road trap" for one of the parties, Israel and for a president
more than any other in history, has committed himself to the survival
security of the Jewish state. Such a prospect is all the more absurd
the unprecedented opportunities a post-Saddam Hussein Middle East could
present for a genuine, just and durable peace between Israel and new,
non-radical Arab regimes in the region.
In his inspiring address on the USS Abraham Lincoln last week,
Bush warned that "any person, organization or government that supports,
protects or harbors terrorists is complicit in the murder of the
and equally guilty of terrorist crimes."
It can only be hoped that the State Department, the rest of the
quartet and the Palestinian sponsors of terrorism on whom they hope to
confer a state understood what the president surely meant to say both
and last June: He will not be party to surrendering Israeli security,
more than our own, to those determined to destroy freedom-loving
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is the president of the Center for Security Policy
a columnist for The Washington Times.