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Facts and Logic About
the Middle East
P.O. Box 590359
San Francisco, CA 94159
(415) 356-7801


February 15, 2005

Dear Friend of FLAME:

Many Mideast commentators lately have expressed giddy gratification at seeing Israeli Prime Minister Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas at the negotiating table, hosted by Egypt and flanked by Jordan. They've also expressed fervent hope that this meeting will lead to peace and a Palestinian state. We, too, believe that Abbas is moving in the right direction with his condemnation of terrorist violence and we, too, hope that he will be successful in stopping it. Moreover, we have no interest in naysaying the honest efforts of either Israel or the Palestinians to achieve a peaceful solution and increased sovereignty for the Palestinian people, whether that ultimately leads to a state or not. What's absolutely critical, though, is that we and our U.S. leaders be realistic about why these negotiations are taking place at all . . . and sober about what's likely to emerge from them.

First, we must acknowledge that these negotiations are fundamentally the result of the Palestinians' miserably failed Intifada II, which began in October, 2000 and has led to the senseless deaths of more than a thousand Israelis and more than three thousand Palestinians. It's also a vindication of Ariel Sharon's policies---a refusal to deal with Arafat and a determination to withdraw from Gaza and leave the terrorists to their own devices (and probable self-destruction). Second, we must keep Abbas' overtures in perspective---they are certainly steps in the right direction, but they are still a world away from creating the conditions necessary for peace with Israel, let alone a sovereign state.

To support these assertions, we offer a special "double bonus" edition of the FLAME Hotline, and we ask your forbearance for offering so much information in one package. But I guarantee that you'll find both of the following articles excellent reading and extraordinarily edifying. The first is by columnist Charles Krauthammer and appeared last Friday in the Washington Post. The second is a house editorial that appeared last Wednesday in the Jerusalem Post. Both these pieces will get your juices flowing and put you on top of the situation.

Best regards,

Jim Sinkinson
Director, FLAME

P.S. Two more quick pieces of information for you: First, FLAME has published a new position paper---"Those Palestinian Refugees---Who Are They, What's the Real Story?"---in publications around the U.S. and internationally. You can view that article at (If you would like to help us fund the placement of this position paper in the media, please use the "Donate" button below.) Second, FLAME has now posted all past issues of the FLAME Hotline, so you can access any of them you may have missed or wish to pass along to others. These are posted at

Why the Palestinians Came to the Table
Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, February 11, 2005

It is now conventional wisdom that the new opening to a Middle East peace is a result of Yasser Arafat's death. This is only half true, and it misses the larger point.

Arafat's death was a necessary condition for hope, but not a sufficient one. It was necessary because Arafat had the power to suppress and literally kill any chances of peace. But his passing would have meant nothing if it had not occurred at a time when the Palestinians finally realized that Arafat's last great gamble, the second intifada, was a disaster.

The reason history does not always repeat itself is that the interval in between often leaves its mark. The Palestinians know that Arafat's war left them a legacy of death, corruption, misery, international isolation and social ruin as the myriad militias he created roam the streets, terrorizing their own people. That is why they elected Mahmoud Abbas, who campaigned against the intifada.

Is Abbas a real peacemaker? We do not know yet. He was disappointing during the election campaign, when he paraded around with terrorists and promised to protect them. He was disappointing again this month when the Palestinian Authority arrested three terrorists in Gaza and released them a few hours later, an alarming repetition of Arafat's arrest policy: Arrest them at the front door for the cameras, then release them out the back door.

On the other hand, Abbas has deployed PA troops in Gaza, ordered all attacks to stop and resumed security cooperation with Israel. His prime minister ordered the collection of all unlicensed weapons in Palestinian-controlled territories, although, given the chaos Arafat left behind, the order will have about as much effect as a similar order issued in Baltimore.

What we can say about Abbas is that while we (well, some) knew that Arafat was dedicated to perpetual war, Abbas is not. That is a start.

Also encouraging is the behavior of major players Egypt and Jordan. They tired of the intifada. It was a losing proposition for both. Egypt does not want a terrorist Gaza, and Jordan does not want a terrorist West Bank.

In the heavily coded language of Middle East diplomacy, Egypt has made some significant moves. It insisted on hosting the peace summit. It invited Ariel Sharon to Egypt for the first time in 23 years. Egyptian and Jordanian ambassadors will return to Tel Aviv. And if you look closely at the pictures, you see Israeli flags flying publicly alongside the Arab flags at the Sharm el-Sheik summit.

There was no Israeli flag flying at the last summit involving Israel's then-prime minister and pathetic peace mendicant, Ehud Barak, when he came begging Arafat to make peace shortly before a disgusted Israeli public could vote him out of office.

Was not Barak the good guy? And Sharon the tough guy? Surprise. Arabs respect toughness. Sharon launched a massive invasion of the Palestinian territories after the Passover massacre of 2002. Western experts and the media were practically unanimous that this would achieve nothing.

Completely wrong. In fact, it is precisely Israel's aggressive counterattack against Palestinian terrorists, coupled with the defensive fence (which has prevented practically all suicide attacks wherever it has been built), that has brought us to this point of hope. As the fence is extended, the Palestinians see the strategic option of terror gradually disappearing. Moreover, Israel's successful military offensive demonstrated to the Palestinians that the premise of the second intifada -- that a demoralized and terrorized Israel would essentially surrender -- is false.

Will they try another intifada in the future? They might. But now they know what they did not know four years ago. The cost will be enormous. And the Israelis do not break. The second intifada was fought under the old land-for-peace slogan: The terrorism would stop only when Israel agreed to full territorial withdrawal to the 1949 lines, a Palestinian state, Jerusalem as the capital and God knows what else. The Palestinians got none of this. They got death and destruction instead. What do the Palestinians now demand from Israel in return for a cease-fire? That Sharon stop hunting down and killing terrorist leaders. Not land for peace. Peace for peace.

Sharon agreed. And a tenuous truce has begun. Of course, at some point Hamas and other terrorist groups will surely try to destroy the cease-fire. (They tested it yesterday in southern Gaza, firing rockets and mortars at a Jewish settlement. Luckily, no one was hurt.) At that point Abbas -- and the Palestinians as a national community -- will have to decide whether to take them on. If they do, they will have their state. If they don't, they are back on the road map to ruin.

Abbas's absent talk of compromise
Editorial, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 9, 2005

We listened to the speeches at the Sharm e-Sheikh summit much as one would to the boy who cried wolf. Even those prone to euphoria, who were swept away by the historic handshake on the White House lawn in September 1993, could hardly, after all we have been through, feel as excited by the handshakes and declarations made Tuesday at Sharm. Neither Mahmoud Abbas nor Ariel Sharon said anything particularly surprising or new. Both tried to couch things as positively as possible, and both refrained from accusations or anything that might mar the conciliatory atmosphere. But hidden in these similarities was a profound difference that must be appreciated to understand the nature of this historic juncture.

In 1993, when Israel secretly negotiated the Oslo agreement with the PLO, it was illegal for Israeli officials to meet with the PLO, and not even the Labor Party had declared itself in favor of a Palestinian state. Almost overnight, Israelis had to adjust to the idea that a terrorist group had pledged to become a peace partner, and the state that had always been called a mortal threat would be created by agreement.

This was a leap for Labor and anathema for the Likud. It would, therefore, have been unimaginable for Ariel Sharon to say then what he said to Abbas directly on Tuesday: "I hope that you will be able to lead your people on the path of democracy and maintenance of law and order, until the establishment of an independent and democratic Palestinian state."

Nor are these mere words. In the next few months, Sharon has committed to carrying out the most concrete down payment toward such a state that Israel has ever made, include signing and implementing Oslo itself.

Disengagement is neither conditional nor an experiment. It is a concrete manifestation of Israel's deep and irreversible consensus, as Sharon said to the Palestinian people, that we have "no desire to continue to govern over you and control your fate."

Sharon's speech may now seem unremarkable because we take for granted the revolution in Israeli thinking since 1993. What is remarkable about Abbas's statement, by contrast, is that it reflects so little Palestinian change over the past 12 years.

No matter how frequently it is said that Oslo is dead, its fundamental goal – a two-state solution – is not only very much alive, but much more entrenched than it was then. It is now the express goal of the US and Israel, with the full support of the international community. The missing part of the picture is, ironically, the Palestinians themselves.

In his speech, Sharon touched on this irony: "We in Israel have had to awaken from our dreams You, too, must prove that you have the strength and the courage to compromise, abandon unrealistic dreams, subdue the forces that oppose peace and mutual respect side by side with us."

Israel has given up the dream of many of its citizens to permanently reclaim the Biblical heartland that it captured in 1967. At least as profoundly, the perception of a Palestinian state has flipped from being regarded as a mortal threat to being seen as a historic necessity.

The Palestinians, by contrast, have not begun the parallel evolution that must take place for a two-state solution to have a chance. They have not begun to give up their claim to a Palestinian right to live on both sides of the Green Line.

Abbas has not begun to speak, even in general, of the need for painful Palestinian concessions, let alone specifically of the need to give up, forever, the dream of "return" to Haifa, Jaffa or Safed, where Abbas himself was born. On the contrary, yesterday he repeated the well-worn code words for such unacceptable demands.

Abbas, then, missed an opportunity to speak to Israelis as Sharon spoke to Palestinians. "The time has come for the Palestinian people to achieve their independence and their freedom," Abbas said. That goal is certainly within the Palestinians' grasp. Indeed, nothing is stopping the Palestinians from doing what they need to do to achieve it: abandon terror, democratize, and give up the dream of two states, both of them Palestinian.

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