The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Thursday, April 18, 2002  


As we debate whether Secretary of State Colin Powell's trip to the Middle East was or was not a failure, Graham E. Fuller, former vice chairman of the CIA's National Intelligence Council, reduces the ongoing failure of the U.S. to broker a peace plan between Israel and the Palestians to a bumper sticker or campaign slogan: "It's the occupation, stupid."

"Until that issue is addressed, nothing else will fall into place," Fuller argues.

The subject of Fuller's essay, which appears in today's Los Angeles Times, is a proposal put forward by Europe's foreign ministers in February. The proposal garnered little attention in this country, most likely because it is based on a forbidden premise: It calls for establishing a Palestinian state as the starting point of negotiations in the Middle East.

As Fuller explains: "The new state would receive immediate international recognition by the world's states, including the U.S. and Israel, a seat at the United Nations and immediate global financial assistance and would be empowered to negotiate with Israel on terms of legal equality."

"The European plan gives the Palestinians an incentive up front, with restored institutions, hope, dignity and relief aid to rebuild their shattered infrastructure, economy and homes. It must be accompanied by an immediate end to the 35-year Israeli occupation. In short, when Palestinians have a stake in a new country and a new society, suicide bombings will rapidly lose their importance. Palestinians don't like to die anymore than other people do, but they will be willing to die until genuine gains are accomplished," adds Fuller, a man courageous enough to try to understand the motivation behind the despicable suicide missions.

Fuller is correct when he says that the Palestinians can no longer be lured into negotiations with promises of a fair and equitable settlement of the prevailing conflict: "That 'negotiating table' has been the continual backdrop to expand new Israeli settlements under all Israeli governments -- spreading armed islands across the Palestinian landscape that shrink future Palestinian territory and ring them with security roads restricted to Israelis only."

Fuller also dismisses the mantra of Israel -- and The New Republic, and National Review, and The Weekly Standard, and Andrew Sullivan, etc. -- regarding Ehud Barak's peace plan. According to the party line, Barak's proposal would have fulfilled all of the Palestinians' goals. "The deal was badly flawed, as honest Israeli analysts themselves admit -- better, to be sure, than anything offered in the past but still short of what is required and what is just," Fuller writes. "No Palestinian leader could have signed it."

The primary appeal of the European Union's plan is that it provides the Palestianians -- up front -- with a measure of confidence that its negotiations with Israel "will be conducted on some basis of legal equality and dignity, and not out of Arafat's battered candle-lit office surrounded by tanks -- the ultimate humiliation that moves people to rage and vengeance."

Fuller concludes, "Let's recognize past failures, get on with some fresh approaches and let the Europeans have a piece of the action that abandons Sharon's mindless military solution, which Washington has sadly supported up to now. Failing that, we will only reap a new harvest of blood and tears and a frightening expansion of our confrontation with the Muslim world."

Worth at least some discussion one would think, but don't count on it.

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