President George W. Bush welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the White House Wednesday. At a press conference following that meeting, and with these words, the president endorsed Sharon’s plan to withdraw from Gaza:
I commend Prime Minister Sharon for his bold and courageous decision to withdraw from Gaza and parts of the West Bank. I call on the Palestinians and their Arab neighbors to match that boldness and that courage. All of us must show the wisdom and the will to bring lasting peace to that region.
Mr. Sharon was delighted with the president’s endorsement of his plan, and said it foreshadowed “a new and better reality for the state of Israel.” Will this move, in fact, be the answer to Israel’s security woes, or will it send an entirely different signal to the terrorist enemies of both Israel and the United States?
The prime minister is, surely, fooling himself. This is not “his” plan, it is a State Department plan – it is a European Union plan, a United Nations plan and, as painful as it is to admit, it is also President Bush’s plan. If it were not, then the president should have just said, “You’ve got to be mad. I’m being attacked on every front because I’m fighting a war on terrorism, and you are asking me to bless your plan to capitulate to unrepentant terrorists that are on our State Department list.”
The so-called “Quartet” must be laughing in derision over what is now being labeled “Sharon’s plan.” It is simply their Roadmap plan wrapped up in shiny, new paper.
The truth is that the president’s endorsement of Sharon’s plan to scrap 21 Jewish settlements in Gaza (an area of approximately 140 square miles) and four settlements in the West Bank, and turn that territory over to the likes of Hamas could be a violation of U. S. anti-terrorism statutes. The perception that he is caving in to the demands of terrorists could cause catastrophic damage to the war in Iraq, and could seriously undermine Mr. Bush’s bid for re-election.
Mohammad Dahlan, the school bus bomber, and former Gaza security boss under Mahmoud Abbas, planned the deadly attack on a busload of Jewish children and teachers in Gaza. Two teachers were killed, and the Cohen children were seriously injured. Orit Cohen lost a foot, her brother, Yisrael, lost half his leg, and older sister, Tehilla, lost both legs. Will the Cohen’s home now become the property of the terrorists who attacked them?
Two years ago, Vice Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert wrote (Wall Street Journal, June 3, 2002) of Dahlan, who is considered to be a “Palestinian prince-in-waiting” and a possible successor to Yasser Arafat:
Mr. Dahlan, along with his assistant Rashid Abu-Shabak, are the primary suspects in the terror attack on an Israeli school bus in Kfar Darom in November 2000. The bombing left half a dozen children maimed … No democratic state should ever allow itself to do business with those individuals who deliberately target a school bus.
According to the US Department of State Anti-Terrorism guidelines, no U.S. citizen, business or agency are permitted to engage in any activity that contributes to a relationship with the organizations on the terrorist list. The president of the United States is not exempt from those guidelines.
Does President Bush’s endorsement of Sharon’s disengagement plan bespeak of a relationship with the terrorists who now reside in Gaza, and have used every horrifying action available to drive the Jews from their land? Will it appear as if the president is assisting in the establishment of a terrorist state in the very heart of the Middle East? Has the president been pressured by Tony Blair (who has a large population of Muslims on his doorstep)? Or, is he trying to appease the Arabs to ensure a drop in oil prices?
After 9-11, President Bush called for the terrorist-supporting and terrorist-harboring states to “show their cards.” This is a dangerous card for the president to play, at the worst possible time. America’s tolerance for terrorism is being severely tested in Iraq. The president is in the midst of the 9-11 Commission investigation, and it looks like someone has reshuffled the deck.
Sharon had said before his meeting with the president that he would not present his plan to the Knesset for approval without Mr. Bush’s endorsement. Now, the prime minister can go forward with his proposal.
President Bush, on the other hand, is left with trying to explain to the American people why it was vital that the terrorist infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan had to be destroyed, while Hamas and their cohorts in crime in Gaza are being rewarded with “land for peace.”
This is the perfect excuse for terrorist organizations worldwide to redouble their recruitment efforts. Israel has bowed to terrorist pressure, and is withdrawing from Gaza. Will America succumb to terrorist tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan, and withdraw U.S. troops?
It is strangely coincidental that Egyptian President Hosni Murbarak preceded Prime Minister Sharon, in a meeting with President Bush on Tuesday – Prime Minister Blair of England is meeting with the president on Friday, and will be followed closely by Saudi Prince Abdullah.
Can it be that Mr. Sharon was overcome by a spirit of generosity, and just decided to give Yasser Arafat, the PLO, and Mohammad Dahlan a gift? Was he stricken with remorse after the assassination of Ahmad Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas? The real question is this: Who has a foot on Prime Minister Sharon’s neck, and is twisting his arm to force this issue?
In an attempt to be a broker for peace in the Middle East, President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon may have just sent a totally conflicting signal – that the United States is not a opponent of terrorism, but is, in fact, an accomplice. This endorsement may prove to be as deadly to the president’s re-election campaign as the asp in Cleopatra’s bosom, or Ronald Reagan’s Iran-Contra scandal.
And even more deadly, it could signal an open door for more terrorist attacks against both Israel and the United States. The call to arms is loud and clear: Come on over, terrorism works! Gaza is proof!