We All Are Israelis Now

An abandoned suitcase in Dortmund’s main station gets
thousands of people scared of terror. An anonymous bomb threat paralyzes Berlin’s
airport. In the appearance of the Madrid attacks, international terrorism has
outrun everyday life in Europe.

Nobody is safe nowhere anymore: not the tourists strolling
through the cities, not the citizens enjoying their croissant in the cafes, not
the youngsters letting off steam in discos, not the employees getting to work
by suburban railway or underground.

It is obvious to us Europeans: Whatever terrorist
organization may have bombed Madrid, they are brutal criminals who stop at
nothing, who in a back-stabbing manner slaughter civilians, men, women, kids —
whomever may be where they let their bombs detonate. And because it is obvious
to us that we have to deal with murderers — with mass murderers! — we just
don’t want to hear about any political or economical or cultural reasons based
on which human beings mutate to terrorists.

We call for “zero tolerance.” And in our heads, we practice
zero tolerance — for terrorist murder there is not a whiff of justification!

But have we Europeans always and in every case been so
consequent as today, in the days after Madrid? Have we condemned — do we
condemn now with the same rigor the suicide bombings of homicidal mobs of
Hezbollah or Hamas against Israel?

For Israeli children, their ride in a school bus has been
perilous for years; as it has been for young people visiting a disco, tourists
enjoying the sun in a sidewalk cafe and employees on their bus ride to office.

The horrifying Israeli reality, however, has not inhibited
us to assign to the Islamistic terror the aura of the Palestinian David’s
against the Israeli Goliath’s fight. The pictures used by European media to
produce such a distortion of reality are always the same ones: state-of-the-art
armored vehicles and armed Israeli soldiers against stone-casting teenage
Palestinians — plus scenes of destroyed houses and women and men crying their
misery into the cameras.

Who thus could help but to bestow his or her sympathy upon
the deracinated and powerless ones? It then takes nothing else but weighty
Ariel Sharon justifying the Israeli military action in front of the media — and
in the twinkling of an eye the Palestinian propaganda battle is, with Westerly
journalistic support, victoriously slugged out.

This is what has happened for years. We have gotten used to
the terror against Israel as a kind of explicable terror, causing, so to say,
not completely innocent victims. Moreover, nobody really is forced to pay a
risky visit to this small, well-fortified Middle Eastern democracy.

But now, terror is paying a visit to us. And it will stay
with us, in our cities, in our cafés, in our discos, in our suburban and underground
railroad systems, in our airports. We all are Israelis now! Victims! Innocent

This editorial appeared in SonntagsBlick, the largest
circulation newspaper in Switzerland. Â

Frank A. Meyer is the editorial head of the Ringier Publishing House

U.S. Should Support Right to Build Fence

Attacks on Israel are escalating again. With another deadly suicide bombing in the heart of Jerusalem, the race to thwart the infiltration of terrorists is up against yet another rush: to condemn Israel at the United Nations.

This time, the forum is the United Nations’ International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, where Israel faces a legal challenge to its security barrier along the West Bank (see story, page 16). The case was brought about by a Palestinian resolution in the U.N. General Assembly calling on the court to evaluate the impact of the fence on Palestinian lives but not to consider the hundreds of Israeli deaths that led to its creation.

The pressure for the hearing is part of a concerted effort by Arab nations to divert attention from Palestinian terrorism. Just weeks before the resolution was approved, Israel had sponsored a General Assembly resolution expressing sympathy for Israeli children wounded and killed by Palestinian terrorists.

The language of the resolution mirrored a similar one concerning Palestinian children that had already passed. The Israeli version, however, was never even given a chance, after the Arab nations used every trick to try and water it down, so it would not acknowledge Israeli suffering.

While the United States has lodged objections to the ICJ’s authority to rule on the security fence and raised concern about the politicization of the court, it is disappointing that the Bush administration has refused to argue on behalf of Israel’s right to have the fence to protect its own population from terrorist murderers.

Why, one might ask, is the Bush administration taking such a weak position?

Some speculate that it is because we are so bogged down in Iraq that we are ignoring this issue. Others suggest that the United States is so desperate to appeal to the Europeans and the United Nations to bail us out of Iraq that it doesn’t want to take a position fully in support of Israel.

Whether or not these theories are true, I do believe that the mixed messages indicate that the president does not have a clear and organized plan to get the so-called "road map" for peace moving again or to look for an alternative.

The administration has gone out of its way to challenge the security fence as an obstacle to the peace process. In January, the Bush administration cut $290 million from Israel’s economic loan guarantees to protest the planned path of the security fence.

During President Bush’s visit to the United Kingdom in November, he warned Israel not to "prejudice final negotiations with the placement of walls and fences." The State Department has also announced that the fence will be denounced in the 2003 edition of its annual Human Rights Report.

Even though the road map had good ideas, the security fence was the least of its problems. Israel sustained close to 6,000 terrorist attacks from the time the plan was announced in June 2002.

With Yasser Arafat not about to disappear and another weak Palestinian prime minister unable or unwilling to control terrorists, there has been little hope for any change soon in the status quo. The Palestinian tactic of taking its concerns to the ICJ instead of the negotiating table is only further evidence that Israel has no viable diplomatic partner.

I agree that Israel should adopt a less- provocative route for the security fence. I agree that even though final-status negotiations will not be judged according to its placement, the fence should be adjusted to minimize the disruption of innocent Palestinian lives. But the battle at the ICJ is not about these details, it is about the unrelenting determination of the Palestinian leadership to hide from its own record as a sponsor of terrorism and use U.N. institutions to single out Israel for isolation and shame.

There is clear evidence that the fence is saving lives. Once completed, it will provide for more security and stability for Israel and serve as a platform for an eventual return to final status negotiations. The demarcation will bring about a more vigorous debate among Israelis about the removal of illegal outposts and small pockets of settlements beyond the fence that are difficult to defend.

The boundary should also enable Israeli troops to withdraw from Palestinian cities and push the Palestinian people to work toward reforms that will challenge the political paralysis and corruption of their leaders.

The fence may not be an ideal scenario, but it is a workable substitute until the road map can get back on track. As the ICJ case moves forward, I would hope that the Bush administration will go beyond supporting Israel on technical grounds and stand for Israel’s right, as a sovereign and democratic nation, to take the measures necessary to defend its people.

Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles) represents the 30th District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

June Gloom

Two steps forward, three steps back.

That is the definition of any Middle East peace process, and the most important question now is whether President Bush, who very publicly committed himself to a “road map to peace” last month, will tough it out.

The gruesome attacks this week that have claimed almost two-dozen Israeli lives so far, as well as Israel’s assassination attempt Tuesday on Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantissi, have demonstrated that the door Bush must walk through is not just shut, but bolted closed.

“They know he’s going to be pulled deeper into this,” a source who is close to several of the president’s aides told me by phone on Wednesday, “but he’s not going to let it become a tar pit.”

The Bush administration’s A-Team must now rush in and figure out a way to prop up Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, further neutralize president-for-life Yasser Arafat and pressure Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to keep the surprises to a minimum. They must get the benefits flowing to the Palestinian street, and, at the same time, turn off the flow of terrorism into Israel. And they must do all this now. Piece of cake.

Following Israel’s attempt on Rantissi’s life — an attack that killed a woman and a baby and wounded 25 others — administration officials sought to understand Sharon’s motivation. Bush’s condemnation was not as strident as the press made it out to be. The phone call from the White House went from national security adviser Condoleeza Rice to Sharon’s chief of staff Dov Weisglass, not from Bush to Sharon. If Sharon can offer credible evidence that Rantissi was — is — the ticking bomb Israelis claim him to be, that will go a long way to calming administration jitters that Sharon is seeking a way out of the peace process, or is risking the whole venture in order to shore up support to his right.

Sharon, or any Israeli leader, must not go forward with a peace process if any step is seen as a capitulation to terror. United States diplomats and the CIA, as well as the Shin Bet, will need to provide him with assurances that Abbas is doing all he can to prevent terror, even if the inevitable attacks occur. Then Sharon will have to do what Ehud Barak and Yitzhak Rabin before him struggled to do: explain to Israelis under attack why the peace process is still worth pursuing.

The more delicate piece of the puzzle is Abbas. Bush likes him, finds him courageous. Abbas does have more guts than most of us, as demonstrated in his showdown with Hamas over the cease-fire talks last week. But he is also a pope without troops, and, given the continuing violence, is unlikely to recruit many these days. What he needs is time, and Bush and his team must find the words and the way to buy him some.

It’s by now received wisdom that the man behind the curtain in all of this is Arafat. He can throw wrenches into this machinery at will, but the administration, which so rightly cast him aside as yesterday’s terrorist, has little leverage with him. If the Europeans and Arab nations want to play a constructive role here, they can help Bush help the Palestinians by keeping Arafat in line.

After Wednesday’s attack in Jerusalem, an e-mail went out with the bloodless but terrifying statistics: 17 people dead (as of press time), five more in comas, five in intensive care, seven undergoing surgery, 108 people hospitalized. Staring at the earliest photos taken at the screen of the bombing on Jaffa Road, I felt shattered, and I can’t begin to imagine the agony of a society at constant prey to such murderers.

But another recent statistic is just as heart-wrenching. Palestinian polls are finding greater support for Hamas than for Fatah. Hamas, an organization whose stated goal is the destruction of the Jews in their homeland, now regularly outpolls Fatah, whose political focus has been negotiation with Israel. Part of Hamas’ growing popularity is that it provides social services — thus it polls high among Palestinian women.

But Hamas is also that rare political entity that does what it says it will do. One reason its cease-fire talks with Arafat broke down last January was that Hamas founder Ahmad Yasin accused Arafat of untrustworthiness. “The PA itself supports the jihad activities and the suicide attacks,” he said, “whilst at the same time it requests us to put a stop to them.”

That echoes the American and Israeli opinion of Arafat, an irony that would be funny if the results weren’t so deadly. Observers have long noted that Hamas is waiting in the wings, ready for its close up, with a leadership and infrastructure that could almost seamlessly replace that of Fatah. That would be a victory for terror that the world, much less the Israelis and the Palestinians, could not afford.

When Bush met with Sharon and Abbas, he cast his dedication to the cause of Mideast peace in spiritual terms. It’s worth noting that he declared his intention to liberate Iraq in similar language. If he made good on his commitment in Baghdad, perhaps he can be counted on to follow through with his commitments in Aqaba. There is probably no way around this tar pit but straight across, and that’s a path I hope the president takes.