After meeting on Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, President Bush said, "The United States is committed to Israel's security and well being as a Jewish state, including secure and defensible borders. We're committed to preserving and strengthening Israel's capability to deter its enemies and to defend itself."
The president did not say what he meant by such a "commitment," but it is hard to accept that Israel's security is preserved and strengthened when the American government, over several administrations, has pressured various Israeli prime ministers into relinquishing land to its sworn enemies.
The two sides haven't even gotten to the road map yet and are still in what might be called the "pre-road map stage." But Sharon has said that even in this stage, certain conditions must be met before moving to the road map, itself.
These, reasonably, include a full cessation of terror, violence and incitement, the dismantling of terror groups and collection of their weapons, as well as the cessation of smuggling of terrorists and weapons, particularly from Egypt, through the Gaza Strip and into Israel.
None of these conditions, which are spelled out in the road map, have been met, but that does not deter President Bush, or those who have preceded him, from pressuring Israel to give more.
On every previous occasion when Israel has caved to U.S. pressure and ceded territory vital to its own defense, the Palestinian and Arab side has behaved like a giant boa constrictor. It swallows its prey, rests for a bit to digest it, and then starts looking for more.
The Bush Administration wants to send additional tax dollars to the Palestinians to build infrastructure. If new Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas wants money for Palestinian infrastructure, he can draw on considerable amounts socked away in secret Swiss bank accounts by the late Yasser Arafat.
According to Issam Abu Issa, former chairman of the Palestine International Bank, Arafat misappropriated hundreds of millions of dollars, and he and some of his cohorts became millionaires while they allowed many Palestinians to live in squalor. Read all about it in the fall 2004 issue of Middle East Quarterly. (www.meforum.org/article/645)
If one visits the State Department's Web page on which the "road map" appears (www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2003/20062.htm), one finds the headline "A Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict."
The key words are "performance-based." So far, it is only Israel that has been doing the performing. The Palestinians have limited their performance to lip service and meaningless gestures.
In the past, the Palestinians were happy to reduce incidents of terror in order to get the next piece of land. After they got it, the terror resumed because terror is at the center of their strategy to capture all the land. What they don't get by intimidation, they will try to take by all-out war at the appropriate time.
Phase One of the road map was supposed to be completed in May 2003. It called for "ending terror and violence, normalizing Palestinian life and building Palestinian institutions." Since not one of these objectives has been realized, even in the "pre-road map" period, how could anyone other than a cockeyed optimist believe that the Palestinians are serious about co-existing with Israel?
Sharon has repeatedly said that moving forward depends on these steps. Yet he acknowledges the problem of continuing terror, although at different levels of intensity. So, if it is a condition for "moving forward" that the terror completely stop, but yet the terror continues, why is Israel moving forward anyway?
Doesn't he make the case against the very policy he is implementing, which includes the uprooting of thousands of Jews in Gaza (along with the evacuation of their cemeteries and synagogues)? It was none other than Sharon who urged these Jews to live in Gaza in the first place.
The flaw from the beginning has been the belief that what Israel does or doesn't do affects the conduct of her enemies, whose policy remains the elimination of Israel -- by hook, by crook or by road map.
-- Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services.