Saturday, March 05, 2005

Column One: The Sharansky moment?

The Jerusalem Post's Caroline Glick discusses the unprecedented affect Natan Sharansky has had on our foreign policy and on President Bush -- and on the ME region. One sentence in particular has brought a smile to my face:

Damascus's announcement that it would withdraw its forces from Lebanon was met by a Lebanese demand that Hizbullah be dismantled.

There are many reasons why, if this happens, it is fantastic news. For one thing, it will take away a major tool of terror against Israelis. The PA will no longer have their evil little neighbor handy to commit attacks while keeping their hands "clean." I also believe that a dismantled Hizbullah will make Iraq safer.

What is happening in our neighboring lands is nothing short of a revolution. There has never before been a situation in the Arab world where so many people have been willing to stand up to their regimes and demand their freedom. Although the Arab revolution is only in its earliest phases – and it is impossible to foresee what will transpire in the coming days, months and years – the very fact that the Arab world has responded so dramatically to the Iraqi elections at the end of January and to Bush's call for democracy seems to be a full vindication of both Sharansky's political theory and of Bush's decision to graft it onto his genetic code.

There has been a seismic shift in the region, and while it's understandable to reserve judgment, one can't help but feel encouraged. That is, until you read something like this.

But other events from this past week would seem to cast a pall on the excitement. On Tuesday, Israeli Arab MKs Ahmed Tibi and Muhammad Barakei, while participating in an Arab League conference in Abu Dhabi, told their colleagues not to normalize their relations with Israel. According to a report in the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper, confirmed by the Ynet Web site, at the conference, held under the aegis of the Abu Dhabi Center for Strategic Research, the two told their audience that Israel was manipulating the world into believing that it was advancing the cause for peace by withdrawing from Gaza, but it was actually entrenching its control over Judea and Samaria and abandoning the cause of peace.

This makes my stomach sink. The thought of Arab Israelis saying such treasonous things can't help but make one feel blind-sided.

The fact that these politicians – who owe their positions to the fact that they live in a democracy – have called for the Arab world to continue its rejection of their own country would seem to put a damper on the notion that democracy can bring an end to Arab rejection of Israel. Indeed, as an Arab colleague remarked recently, "The reformers in the Arab world hate Israel just as much as their leaders whom they are trying to overthrow."

I know I shouldn't be surprised by this. But Glick makes a great point in saying that while anti-Semitism is strong in Europe, none of those democracies plan to attack Israel. And while Arab hatred is high, it's in countries with a dictator. And everyone knows that dictators need external "fall guys" to deflect their own failures. Glick makes a very valid point:

Tibi and Barakei's statements may seem out of place during this revolutionary moment, but what they represent more than anything else is the failure to apply the Bush-Sharansky Doctrine to the Palestinian Authority.

She says that the Palestinians see Israel as weak. The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research released a poll saying that 74% of Palestinians see...

Ariel Sharon's plan to destroy the Israeli communities in Gaza and northern Samaria as a vindication of terrorism as a national strategy. The Palestinians stated that they do not believe that Sharon would have ever presented the plan if it hadn't been for the Palestinian terror war against Israel. It is this perception of Israeli weakness and terrorist strength that undoubtedly prompts the opportunistic likes of Tibi and Barakei to side with them against Israel.

It's no wonder. Israel received overwhelming pressure from the International Community to capitulate. We knew the Palestinians would view it as a victory for terror.

...when Israel looks weak, Israeli Arabs want to make sure that the PA sees them as loyal to the cause. While they can rest assured that a democratic but weak Israel will do nothing to punish them for their treachery, they cannot risk supporting Israel as it strengthens and legitimizes the terror-supporting, quasi-tyranny next door in the PA.

Another disturbing fact that Glick discusses is her own government's seeming disdain for democracy in the PA. She says that Sharon "views Sharansky's ideas with scorn" and Peres isn't any different -- and because of their lack of support for political democracy in the territories, there is a continuation of Arafat's dictatorial and terror-supporting regime in the territories.

Israel's decision to prefer the rule of Arafat's deputy to genuine democratic transformation in the PA has paved the way for the international community's embrace of Abbas. Rather than demand an accounting for the billions of dollars in international aid that were stolen by Arafat (and by Abbas and PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei and their associates), in London this week the international community pledged to transfer more than a billion additional dollars to the PA.

We, who reside in the blogway, have made a few of these points ourselves. What sense does it make to give them more money? Why not look for the billions that have been taken over the years? Well, obviously that's just nonsense. They obviously know what they're doing (tongue firmly in cheek).

Buoyed by this unqualified support, Abbas is now demanding that the international community drop the demand that he fight terrorists and enable the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state immediately. The EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, has already accepted this position.

So in the space of one week, we see the consequences of both the Bush-Sharansky Doctrine and the appeasement-based status quo in action. While the region's war-torn, radical and terror-engendering history tells us what the ultimate consequences of the status quo will be, we have yet to harvest the fruits of the Bush-Sharansky-inspired revolution.

The main question we should be concerning ourselves with now is whether the revolution will be extended to the Palestinians or whether – once Sharon-Peres-style appeasement is grafted onto its genetic code – the revolution will fade away and be forgotten.

It is rather odd that the people the International community are supposed to "care about," could very well be the one group not to benefit from this surge of democracy and freedom.


At 5:16 PM, Blogger Tom Carter said...

Nicely done, Esther, and very informative!

At 5:41 PM, Blogger MaxedOutMama said...

I know Bush has been hammered on for not "negotiating" with Arafat, but I to see the money as being a big issue. Here's hoping he got a few points across in his European tour, but I'm not holding my breath.

Yes, only when the Palestinians get a truly representative state will there be a chance for peace. Until that time, it is just bombs for dollars.

At 8:43 PM, Blogger patrickafir said...

I haven't yet read of any calls for Hizbullah to be dismantled (outside of the vague reference Caroline makes to Walid Jumblatt expressing disdain for them), but it sure would be nice. I hate those monsters. Mr. Sharansky's book is awesome, and I think it gave expression to the character the Mr. Bush already embodied. I am not quite so optimistic as they are about the Middle East, but I am nevertheless deeply moved by what has been happening there.

My Lebanese friend tells me that he doesn't see any way that Hizbullah won't be a part of the new government. They already have representation in parliament. We'll see how things turn out in Syria and Iran. Also, if they step things up with Israel, it will not serve them well (in a Hellfire way).

In the end, I am truly grateful to have great visionaries like Natan Sharansky and George W. Bush at times like these when they are exactly what we need.

At 9:36 AM, Blogger Gindy said...

"the two told their audience that Israel was manipulating the world into believing that it was advancing the cause for peace by withdrawing from Gaza, but it was actually entrenching its control over Judea and Samaria and abandoning the cause of peace."

Why should Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran change what they believe in? They are spreading hate across the world. Nothing has happened in those countries that would force that to change.

At 9:56 AM, Blogger Esther said...

Thanks Tom!

MoM, it does feel that way. I will adopt a wait and see attitude but I fear more Israeli lives will be lost in the process.

patrick, what made me feel better about things (a tiny bit) was what I think Caroline said about not needing them to like us -- but that democratic states don't attack Israel. I want to believe that. Your friend saying Hizbullah will still be part of the govt doesn't encourage that hope though.

Gindy, sad but true...

At 12:00 PM, Blogger patrickafir said...

I'm still hopeful! Just in a very cautious way. The fact that these events are even taking place is something of a minor miracle.


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