First Principles in the Mideast

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 3, 2002 | Go to article overview

First Principles in the Mideast


Byline: Frank Gaffney Jr., THE WASHINGTON TIMES

One thing is for sure. The Bush administration is going to have to come up with a better approach to Mideast policy than has been on display since Vice President Richard Cheney toured the region last month. Neither the United States nor her vital interests can afford to have the perception persist that has set in over the past few weeks.

America has come to be perceived as willing to abandon a friend, Israel - or at least to support her piecemeal destruction. It is seen as so desperate to curry favor with latently, if not overtly, hostile Arab regimes that it will ignore behavior that is threatening or injurious to this country and/or its allies (for example, anti-American broadcasts on Saudi and Egyptian government-controlled media). And its diplomats are viewed as instruments for checking and sabotaging what President Bush seeks to do in the region.

Needless to say, such impressions are as unfair to Mr. Bush as they are intolerable for the nation. Yet, they are out there, and must promptly be rectified.

In particular, corrective action is required with respect to steps taken by the administration that have risked mortally adulterating its core message in the war on terrorism: Those who deliberately kill innocent civilians for political, religious or other purposes are terrorists. Those who harbor, train, support or legitimate their activities are to be treated in the same way as the terrorists. And, to the extent that such terrorists and their state-sponsors have a "global reach" - and virtually all those operating in the Mideast do (whether as a result of their financial networks, their strategic alliances, their attacks on Americans, etc.) - they are enemies of the United States.

The truth is that Yasser Arafat qualifies as such a terrorist. His central objective is to create a state of "Palestine" over all the territory that he considers to be occupied by Israel (namely, the entire West Bank, Gaza Strip and all of pre-1967 Israel). This vision - expressed in a universally used map (myriad examples of which can be viewed at the Center for Security Policy's web site, www.PeaceThroughStrength.com) - is identical to that of Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.

With each passing day it is becoming more and more difficult to sustain the fiction even that Mr. Arafat's tactics amount to anything other than a "good cop-bad cop" routine as organizations explicitly loyal to him (notably, Fatah, Tanzim and Al Aqsa Brigades) stake competing claims with Hamas, Hezbollah or Islamic Jihad for the most recent, murderous attacks on Israeli civilians.

These developments require a return to first principles by the Bush administration, entailing the following policy adjustments:

First, the United States must stand with Israel - a fellow democracy and close ally whose losses along its front (which now means practically everywhere in Israel) in the war on terrorism greatly exceed on a per capita basis those experienced by the United States on September 11.

The president made the right first step in this direction with his declaration last Saturday that Israel has a right to defend herself. …

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