September 25, 2003
by Meyrav Wurmser
This event occurred on September 15, 2003 from 12:00 noon - 2:00 pm
Guest Speakers: Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick and Dr. Charles Krauthammer
Opening Remarks: Dr. Mey Wurmser
Hello and welcome to the Hudson Institute.
It is almost ironic that we are meeting here to discuss the failure of the Road Map almost exactly at the 10 years anniversary of the Oslo accords. Oslo is now being recognized as a grave historic error of both Israel and the West. Although Oslo is now gone, Israelis and Palestinians still live its consequences. The Israelis in the form of daily terror, the Palestinians in the form of daily misery created by an irresponsible Palestinian regime that continues to support terror.
The realities created by Oslo and its failure led the Bush administration to search for a new Palestinian leadership. But the recent resignation of Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and his proven inability to stop terror revealed the extent to which, despite American and Israeli efforts, Yasser Arafat continues to control most of what’s going on in Palestinian politics.
It also reveals the failure of the concept behind the Road Map—the idea that even at the current state of affairs, despite terror and a limited progress toward greater freedom and better governance in the Palestinian areas—Israelis and Palestinians can continue to talk about peace.
Over the weekend, Israel announced that Arafat might be either exiled or even killed. My personal guess is that Arafat is preparing to dismantle the Palestinian Authority. If he is either exiled or killed his supporters will announce that the PA as null and void. That way, the U.S. and Israel will have no address to either blame for terror or negotiate peace with. Any Palestinian who will attempt to step up to a leadership position will be threatened or killed by Arafat’s armed militias. So the choice Arafat is likely to give the West is: “either I remain in power or you will face complete chaos.”
This raises many questions, which we hope that our distinguished panelists will address. First, is the answer to the current crisis getting rid of Arafat? Is the problem just Arafat, or is it the whole PLO leadership group that was brought into the West Bank from Tunis? Can there ever be peace with the PLO? And, what should the US and Israel do now?
Richard Carlson, from the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, will introduce the speakers.
We were here at Hudson just ten days ago to listen to Dr. Walter Laquer talk about terrorism, a subject inextricably linked to progress in the Mideast and to the fate of the Road Map. We are glad to be back and once again, with our friends from Hudson and the Center for Security Policy.
I’ll do a quick introduction of Ambassador Kirkpatrick and Dr. Charles Krauthammer. They’ll each speak for a while and we will then entertain questions. This is a small room, you wont need a microphone, just speak up. I said the room is small, that means that any speeches you want to make preceding your question must be accordingly small. But we don’t mind if you do that, sometimes it stimulates conversation further.
We’ll let the discourse run, but maybe with an eye towards wrapping it up around 1:30 or so as many of you have to get back to work. Frank Gaffney, CEO of the Center for Security Policy will close out with a few remarks.
Neither Charles Krauthammer nor Ambassador Kirkpatrick need an introduction as they are already quite famous generally, and very famous specifically among people like yourself who pay attention to world events. But let me offer a reminder or two about their backgrounds. I’m going to say a few things about each and after that they will each speak. First, Jeane Kirkpatrick.
Jeane Kirkpatrick was the first woman appointed as permanent ambassador to the UN. She was a member of the Ronald Reagan’s cabinet and National Security Council. She served PFIAD, the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board for five years and the Defense Policy Review Board for eight years. She is highly decorated, including the Medal of Freedom, which she received from the President. She has been the LeAvey Professor of Government at Georgetown University and is the Director of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at AEI here in Washington. She is the author of many books including The Withering Away of the Totalitarian State, Legitimacy and Force (in two volumes), Dictatorships and Double Standards and A Study of Peronist Argentina. Those are just some of them.
Charles Krauthammer is a former practicing psychiatrist with an MD degree from Harvard. He was once chief resident in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is a prolific author and syndicated columnist who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987 for ‘distinguished commentary’ – words that characterize his writing and his spoken opinions for about twenty years. He is a winner of the National Magazine Award for essays and is syndicated by the Washington Post to more than one hundred newspapers. In 1980, after coming to Washington to direct psychiatric research for the Carter administration, Dr. Krauthammer began writing for the New Republic and joined them full time as a writer and editor. In 1987, Washingtonian named him as one of the top fifty influential journalists in Washington, a ranking he has maintained ever since.
Dr. Charles Krauthammer:
Thank you for that kind introduction. Whenever I hear my checkered past recalled to me I can’t decide if I’m a retired psychiatrist or a one-time doctor. I’ve decided I’m a psychiatrist in remission. I haven’t had a relapse in twenty five years. Sometimes I ask what the difference is between what I do today as a political analyst in Washington and a psychiatrist in Boston. I tell people they really are not that different. In both positions I deal daily with people who suffer from paranoia and delusions of grandeur, with the exception that in Washington they have access to nuclear weapons so the stakes are a little higher and more interesting. We’re here to talk about a very difficult and painful subject and that is the catastrophe that has befallen the Middle East over the last ten years.
Precisely Saturday to the day, marks the Oslo Accords which I believe historians will conclude was the most grievous, self-inflicted, diplomatic wound on the part of Israel and the United States. At least for 100 years it ranks perhaps only with Versailles, but Versailles took 20 years before the consequences - bloody consequences - became apparent and here the blood began to flow almost immediately. In order to know where to go, we have to know where we came from and we have to understand what was wrong with Oslo. You will hear and you will read endless dissections of Oslo. The details of the treaty are utterly irrelevant. The salient factor is a single factor and that is that for 55 years, the Palestinians, as a collective entity, have refused to accept the state of Israel. Absent that acceptance, no peace, no process, no truce can yield any results because you can’t have a truce, you can’t have a peace, and you can’t have a settlement between peoples who are arguing over the position of a border. You cannot have that among people whose dispute is existential, which is why we don’t negotiate with Al-Qaida. There’s nothing to negotiate. Palestinians have yet to make that collective decision.
The reason Oslo is a mistake is that it was undertaken under the assumption that the Palestinians had taken that decision because Yasser Arafat affixed his name to a piece of paper which said so. It was a lie from the beginning and it should have been understood as a lie from the beginning. Arafat also affixed his name to 67 cease fires in Lebanon so you can see how much he attributes to the sanctity of his name or to the notion that his word is his bond.
Despite the ostensible recognition of Israel in the Oslo agreement, Arafat simply used the fact that the Israelis had brought him out of exile, given him 50,000 weapons, and given him control of all the major cities, to establish what Faisal Husseini, whom you remember was the great moderate, openly said in the year 2000, was a Trojan horse. The entire intent of the Oslo Accords, on the part of the Palestinian people, on the part of Arafat, was to establish a state to carry out the two-phase plan- the one that everybody who studied the Middle East knows about- agreed in Cairo in ’74, which was to accept any piece of territory in Palestine from which to wage the war. And we have seen the war waged now for ten years; waged openly for the past three years, but prepared for, during the seven years before that. Prepared for by smuggled in of arms, by the training of militias and most importantly, by the incitement and indoctrination of a generation of young people to a level of hatred of Israel unseen in the entire history of this dispute. It is not because of a single man- Arafat is intrinsically unable and will never sign a final peace. We saw that when offered a very generous offer by Ehud Brak and President Clinton at Camp David in the summer of 2000. He turned it down. Not only did he turn it down but he never made a counter-offer. He not only didn’t make a counter offer, he started a war of terror six weeks later.
He sees himself as a revolutionary. He sees himself in the tradition of Ho Chi Min and Mao Tse-tung, of Castro and others who pursue revolution to victory and have a history of success. He sees this war as a colonial war, he sees Israel as transient, he sees the West as very weak and wavering in its support of Israel, and he sees victory as inevitable, and attainable. He sees accepting half a loaf, meaning accepting the State of Israel in any form, as a betrayal of the Palestinian revolution.
Now if it were just him, then you could remove him and you might have a solution. The problem is that he does represent, up until now, the collective Palestinian approach, decision if you like- perhaps decision is too strong a word- decision by default, to accept nothing less than all of Palestine with the eradication of Israel and to continue the struggle until that is achieved by any means.
Therefore, we are now at a point where the Israelis are talking about removing Arafat. The question of removing him I think has to be approached entirely tactically. In principle, I think if he were killed, it would be hard to make a moral argument why that would be wrong. He is a terrorist, he has the blood of thousands on his hands and he continues to support and encourage terrorism. Tactically, would it be wise? I’m not sure. Two years ago, I advocated his expulsion. I think at that time it might have had a beneficial effect. Today, I think the Palestinians are in a position where his expulsion on balance, might be negative in terms of accelerating or at least opening any prospect of peace. The reason I say that is because we had the phenomena of Mahmoud Abbas. I think the failure in Palestinian terms of the Intifada is the assumption that Israel would react as it reacted in Lebanon- by collapse and surrender and withdrawal. Israel did not because Israel is not Lebanon. Israel could give up the territory of Lebanon but it will not retreat into the Mediterranean as a result of the Intifada. As a result, the Palestinians have suffered a lot in the last three years as have the Israelis. I believe that that has had an effect on Palestinian consciousness. The Abbas phenomenon is at least a reflection of that. I don’t think that is by any means a majority opinion. Obviously he fell quickly with little support. None the less it represents hope in that there may be a shift in Palestinian thinking which may over time be strengthened, which would in the end, accept half a loaf of negotiations, some kind of division of the land and ultimately a solution.
I think the best outcome would be if Arafat himself withered away by irrelevance in the sense that he would be rejected by his own people for having brought them nothing but misery. His expulsion I think will likely give him at least a temporary resurgence as we see happening in the streets today and also I believe would be a mistake because it changes the subject. The subject today is recognition by the world, even the Europeans in the UN that the failure of the Road Map is as a result of Palestinian actions. The absolute requirement of stage one of the Road Map was end of the terror and dismantling the terror apparatus, that’s the absolute requirement, the single requirement of the Palestinians, and nothing of the sort happened. I think that is the issue which is recognized by the United States and I think it is even recognized in Europe by the UN.
By expelling Arafat, the subject for the next month, months, years perhaps, is going to be his position, his place, his wanderings, and I think tactically it could be an error. I don’t think this is the main issue- whether he stays or goes. The issue is: will the Palestinians as a collectivity make that decision. And if they end up in a position where they want to make that decision, they, themselves will remove or replace or marginalize Arafat and find other leadership. What will make that change of consciousness happen? I think it will be first, a continuation of the realization of the failure of the Intifada and the misery that it has brought on the Palestinian people. Therefore, I think the most important step to be taken to advance the day in which the Palestinians make their decision or begin to make that decision is to continue the pressure. In other words to show to the Palestinian population that terror will yield only what it has yielded for the last three years and that will continue.
Second, what the Israelis I think ought to do and what the United States ought to be supporting is the building of the security fence. Separation today is the only possible answer and it is also the only way to advance the process, ironically. It will do it in two ways. 1) If successful, if the fence is built, it will have a radical effect in reducing the amount of terror. It will obviously not stop in entirely, nothing can stop it entirely, but it will become sporadic as opposed to systematic. That’s number one. That will not only save lives, it will also take a weapon out of the hands of Palestinian extremists, meaning if they cannot perpetrate the suicide terror, they will not have the means of pressing Israel. Then they will have to reconsider how they will achieve their goals and the only other avenue always open is negotiations. 2) By placing the fence in places that are favorable to Israel in terms of a final settlement, they’re putting pressure on the Palestinians as a way of saying: look, if you want to negotiate the border in good faith, we’ll do it now, and your terms will probably be reasonably good. If you wait and continue the losing Intifada, we will define the borders of the fence and you will find your territory smaller, more constrained, more disjointed than it might be otherwise. In the end the fence can always be moved but I think its presence, its construction, will have a salutary effect, in reducing the bloodshed, in taking the terrorist card out of Palestinian hands and in simply putting pressure on the Palestinians in terms of the final settlement. I think unless that pressure is continued, there is no hope for changing the fundamental blockage, the fundamental obstacle to peace. That obstacle is Palestinian acceptance of Israel and their willingness to accept a two-state solution. If and when that day happens, I think peace will become possible and I think it will occur. Anything which hastens that day is something that I think ought to be seen as advancing the cause of peace. Thank you.
Richard Carlson: Our thanks to Dr. Krauthammer. That was a fascinating, insightful and provocative analysis. We’ll got to Ambassador Kirkpatrick:
Thank you Charles for that optimistic presentation. I had the misfortune, or good fortune, I’m not quite sure which, to listen as I drove into town on my way here to the United Nations Security Council, to country representatives presenting their country’s views. France for example- I listened to France present its views about this crisis. A very articulate spokesman declared France’s undying commitment to the Security Council, the decisions of the Security Council, its commitment to peace, and to the decisions reached by the Security Council. I found nothing optimistic about the French presentation I might say. I listened to the Israeli representative who was quite eloquent, and quite strong. I did not listen to the American because I guess we’re presidents of the Security Council just now, so at least the President was not speaking early in the presentation.
It is very clear to me that the debate, so called, is going to be harsh, long and very unpleasant. I listened to the Palestinian PLO representative by the way, who as usual, sees no merit whatsoever in Israel’s point of view and no case to be made for the Israeli position. He sees no grounds for anyone granting any merit to the Israeli position. Sometimes he sounded like the French representative. Sometimes the French representative sounded a little better. It was a rather dismal discussion and it showed no sign of ending. I suspect it will still be underway when we leave here and perhaps when we go home this evening it will still be underway. I think it’s going to be a difficult and unpleasant time for the US administration and our government because I believe virtually everyone will be supporting the Palestinian in this Security Council ‘debate’. They always do.
I trust that the US government will have strength to do what it clearly must do, which is to stand squarely in back of Israel in this discussion. There is no real question- there is only a question of whether we do what we need to do. The record is so clear- the Israeli Ambassador reviewed it rather effectively, I felt. Israel’s record of its search for peace is so long and so clear and has been so persistent and consistent. The betrayal of the promises, rejection of Israel’s search for peace by the Palestinians- PLO- whatever we shall call them, is so clear. It seems to me there is hardly an issue.
When I think about where we are now, I think as Charles said in the beginning, I think about Oslo. It is ironic that we should be at this anniversary of the Oslo Accords. It is ironic, but no particular surprise. We know what the Palestinians promised in the Oslo Accords. We know that they promised a clear Palestinian recognition of Israel’s right to exist within secure borders following the models of resolution 242 and 338, which I used to be able to quote let me say but I will spare you that just now. It promised the clear renunciation of terrorism by the PLO. Charles in a column one time counted the number of times, as you put it, the Israelis had bought this particular set of promises. And third, the clear cut elimination from the PLO charter of all calls for Israel’s destruction. Now these basic commitments of the Oslo charter are in fact the basis of any search, any move towards peace in that area. It’s a perfectly reasonable place for those persons who were thinking about peace to have begun. It just perhaps was not quite so reasonable for them to assume that the Palestinians were dealing with them in good faith because while they had promised, the promises as we all know were simply never fulfilled. What was worse of course was that they were violated one, by one, by one, again, and again, and again, down to the last bombing this past Tuesday. It was just a few days ago and just as terrible as any bombing has been, in which Israeli civilians, unarmed and uninterested in attacking anyone, were attacked and murdered and overwhelmed with violence by suicide bombers. And so we have one more set of very clear-cut promises and violations. They remind me particularly of the Faisal Husseini commitments, that last interview of his before he died in which he laid out in a ever-so-much-more clear cut fashion, what the PLO goals were. Those persons negotiating for the PLO in Scandinavia were not dealing forthrightly when they promised that there would be no more violence, no more terrorism and no more destruction or efforts to destroy Israel or when the PLO promised to henceforth recognize forever Israel’s right to exist within secure borders. That’s of course what we all want and we can understand why optimistic persons with more optimism perhaps than judgment brought the Oslo Accords as they were offered in those negotiations.
It would be much more difficult to understand why anyone today could buy any such commitments, any such promises from the PLO- from the same people who again and again and again have offered promises and lies or which turn out to be lies. Those lies raise hopes and those lies become the basis for more destruction of more Israelis. There has been almost nothing positive from the perspective of Israelis that has occurred since the Oslo Accords were signed. This is an interesting fact I think. While the Palestinians as we know gained a great deal from the Oslo Accords, gained control of all the major cities in the West Bank for example, gained status in the international world, and gained a larger voice in the international world, the Israelis gained nothing. Just nothing except more death and destruction, more suicide bombers, more suicide bombings, more children blown to kingdom come, more adults, old ladies and old men in coffee houses, young children in kindergartens and in buses. How many people have been bombed how many times?
I cant ever resist briefly, reviewing from the Faisal Husseini comments which were so absolutely dishonest, in which he tells us that what the Palestinians and what he, himself always intended, was to gain control of the whole of Israel. That’s the whole of the West Bank and the whole of land for wh
Meyrav Wurmser was formerly a Senior Fellow with Hudson Institute.
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