For Israelis, the U.S. war on terrorism should have been a comfort. Instead, it is causing them to be increasingly more isolated. President Bush declared his support for a Palestinian state on Tuesday, using America’s longtime ally as a pawn in exchange for Arab states’ support for his international anti-terror commission. The night of the announcement, Palestinian gunmen attacked Israeli settlers in one of the worst attacks on an Israeli settlement in 10 years, killing a teen-age couple and wounding 15 other persons. The Palestinian terrorist group Hamas took responsibility. But the Bush administration is making two critical mistakes: courting the Palestinian Authority, which harbors the suicide-bombing terrorist groups Hamas and the Islamic Jihad and allowing Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to pretend to take part in the administration’s terror-fighting coalition.
The two Palestinian terrorist groups — in addition to the Iranian-backed Hezbollah — somehow never made it onto the administration’s list of terrorist operatives whose assets should be frozen by U.S. financial institutions. This, despite the fact that all three are suspected of having links to al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organization. Not to mention the fact that the Islamic Jihad killed 241 Americans during Mr. Bush’s father’s presidency.
The Arab coalition must be celebrating. Moderate Arab states had made serious U.S. involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — preferably in support of a Palestinian state — a precondition for their support of the anti-terrorism coalition. The United States is granting their request.
Perhaps the Arab coalition was expecting Mr. Bush to follow in the steps of his father, who opposed the Israelis building new settlements and wanted autonomy for Palestinians living on the West Bank. After all, support for Mr. Bush was high in Arab Internet polls last year: 83 percent of those logging into Arabia.com voted Al Gore most likely to pose the greatest threat to Arab interests if elected president. Only 8 percent of respondents thought Mr. Bush would pose a threat, according to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy report. Now Mr. Bush is going beyond their expectations.
Not only did he say the creation of a Palestinian state was the goal of the entire peace process, and that it always had been a part of that vision, but he stated that his campaign against terrorism does not include a plan to attack Iraq — which has been supporting a holy war against Israel.
In the days following the Sept. 11 attacks, Americans felt for the first time what their Israeli friends have lived through for years — a sense of helplessness, constant fear, grief and anger over the senseless loss of life that came suddenly and that could happen again at any moment. Instead of learning from the Israelis, America has turned to those who sponsor their attackers, and likely ours, for help. Israel deserves better, and so do the American people.