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July 11, 2003 - Image 27

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-07-11

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

A Shot At Peace

n private conversations with
Bush administration officials
this past week, I was favorably
impressed by their realism
about the U.S.-sponsored road map
plan to stop Palestinian-Israeli vio-
lence. But I worry nonetheless that
things could go awry.
Those worries stem from the seven
years (1993-2000) of the Oslo round
of Palestinian-Israeli diplomacy, when
well-intentioned Israeli initiatives to
resolve the conflict only worsened it.
I learned two main lessons about
Palestinian-Israel negotiations:
• Unless Palestinians accept the
existence of Israel, the agreements
they sign are scraps of paper.
• Unless Palestinians are held to
their promise of renouncing violence,
agreements with them reward terror-
ism and therefore spur more violence.
My caution today concerns both
points: Palestinian ambitions to
destroy the Jewish state remain alive;
and can the U.S. government enforce
Palestinian compliance more effec-
tively than did its Israeli counterpart?
Questioned again and again on
these issues of Palestinian intentions
and American monitoring, the senior
officials I spoke with offered impres-
sively hardheaded analyses:
• On Palestinian intentions to
destroy Israel, they echo Secretary of
State Colin Powell's recent statement,


Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle

East Forum. His e-mail address is


Orthodox, who today constitute a size-
able percentage of its passengers. They
may be expected to boycott El Al. This
could well offset any expected gain.
An even more critical question arises
with respect to operation of the airline at
a time of national emergency. It is not
easy to forget that upon the outbreak of
the Gulf War a dozen years ago, all the
world's airlines, out of concern for their
own safety, completely suspended all
flights to Israel. Had it not been for El
operating as an arm of the government,
Israel would have been completely cut off
from the world, a situation to be viewed
not only in terms of passengers, but also
of important imports and exports.
Even on the recent outbreak of the
war in Iraq, most of the world's com-

who said he worries about "terrorist
organizations that have not given up
the quest to destroy the State of
• On the need to enforce signed
agreements, both officials insist that
the road map diplomacy would
screech to a halt if the Palestinians
fail to keep their word. One of them
also volunteered that Israel would not
be expected to fulfill its promises if
the Palestinians betrayed theirs.
I was especially pleased by the
modesty of their aspirations. As one

Unless the
accept Israel,
things could go
wrong with the
road map.

official puts it, "We have a shot at
He emphasized that the U.S. presi-
dent cannot merely snap his fingers
and expect Palestinians to do as sum-
moned. He showed a reassuring
awareness that this project is chancy
and that the odds of its succeeding
are not that good.
All this is music to my skeptical

panies suspended flights here until
they were sure there was no danger.
How will a privately owned El Al,
concerned with possible dangers, react
in the face of the next emergency?

Less Sta

It is axiomatic that government-owned
companies tend to have excess staff and
bloated budgets. A new, private manage-
ment is bound to effect savings all along
the line, including the reduction of staff.
The present employees are well
aware of this; even in advance of the
sale, they have induced the govern-
ment to sign a contract guaranteeing
full severance payments in case of dis-
missals. This was the price paid to pre-

Yet, I worry. Won't human
failed us. The road map is a
nature and governmental
good idea in principle, but it
inertia combine to induce the
must be postponed until they
Bush administration to push
are ready for it. We are giving
the road map through to
up on it for now."
completion, riding roughshod
Can they do it? We'll prob-
over the pesky details to keep
ably find out soon enough,
things moving forward?
for the violence has contin-
Suppose that Palestinian vio-
ued despite some signs that
lence continues; won't there
the Palestinian Authority has
be a temptation to overlook it
started cracking down since
Speci al
in favor of keeping to the
Comme ntary three Palestinian terrorist
diplomatic timetable?
organizations agreed to a
That has been the historic
hudna ("temporary ceasefire")
pattern whenever democratic states
on June 29. The Israeli defense minis-
negotiate with totalitarian enemies to
ter, Shaul Mofaz, summed up the sit-
close down their conflicts, starting
uation this way: "There is a certain
with the British-French attempts to
decrease in the number of terror
appease Nazi Germany in the 1930s,
warnings and also a certain decrease
then the American-Soviet detente in
in incitement, but [the Palestinians]
the 1970s, the Israeli-Palestinian
still have a long way ahead of them in
peace process in the 1990s and South
order to live up to their commit-
Korea's sunshine policy with North
Korea since 1998.
How demanding will the U.S. gov-
ernment be about those commit-
ments? One troubling sign came a
Delusions Dashed
week ago, when Secretary Powell stat-
In each case, the delusion that sweet-
ed: "We can't let minor incidents or a
ening the pot would bring about the
single incident destroy the promise of
desired results persisted until it was
the road map that is now before us."
dashed by a major outbreak of vio-
Oslo is just a slippery slope away;
lence (the German invasion of
to prevent a repetition of that deba-
Poland, the Soviet invasion of
cle, American officialdom needs to
Afghanistan and the second
reject all violence, and not wink at
Palestinian intifada).
"minor incidents." The goal, everyone
In theory, American policymakers
needs firmly to keep in mind, is not
can break this pattern. Should
the signing of more agreements but
Palestinian violence against Israel
(short-term) the ending of terrorism
continue, they would announce
and (long-term) the Palestinian
something along the lines of "Well,
acceptance of Israel as a sovereign
we did our best, but the Palestinians
Jewish state. ❑

vent their calling a strike to prevent
the sale. Cost of the severance agree-
ment has been estimated at about
$100 million; the first income from
the sale of company stock will go
toward covering that commitment.
It must be noted that the employees
of the Electric Company have already
warned that they will not consent to pri-
vatization of their company; their threat
of a strike must be taken seriously.
Pessimists take a gloomy view of the
whole situation. They point out that
international terrorism and the SARS
scare have cut so deeply into the income
of all airlines, that all of them are oper-
ating at a loss; almost all are exploring
the possibilities of amalgamation with
other lines. Even gloomier prognostica-

tions predict that with present debts of
close to a $1 billion, El Al may well col-
lapse within the coming year.
Who wants to own El Al? The sudden
demand for the stock on the open mar-
ket opens a new door of opportunity.
Concluding thought: El Al is more
than just an airline. Through the
years, it has developed into a symbol
of the State of Israel, almost no less
than the blue and white flag. Even if
legal title to its ownership changes, it
remains identified with its source.
Should the company ever reach a
critical stage at which its continued
existence comes into question, there is
little doubt that Jerusalem will have to
step in and rescue it from disappear-
ance, no matter what the cost.





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