Sec’y Rice’s Speech Contains Positives & Negatives For Israel’s Supporters
June 5, 2008

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s speech to the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) this week contained both positive and negative elements for supporters of Israel. Secretary Rice was forthright in advocating the importance and essential justice of America’s support for Israel, saying “America’s commitment to Israel is unwavering … The U.S.-Israel alliance is indivisible and unbreakable … our alliance with Israel will forever be rooted in a fellowship of families, of friends, and of faith … deepened by a shared culture of tolerance and a pioneer spirit … and elevated by interests reinforced by common ideals … When people alleged, as some still do, that America’s alliance with Israel was somehow not quite in our national interest, it was President Bush and it was I who said, in fact, the opposite is true: Our security and our values are enhanced in a world where there is a successful democratic ally called Israel.”


Secretary Rice observed of Iran, “The world has passed three sets of sanctions against Iran in the Security Council. The United States has also taken additional steps of sanctioning Iran‘s Revolutionary Guards, its Qods Force, and three of its major banks for abusing the international financial system. We have sent carrier battle groups to the region to deter attacks against our allies and our interests. And we will continue to improve the capabilities of our friends, including through missile defense cooperation with Israel.”


Secretary Rice also sharply highlighted the danger posed by the Iranian regime’s quest for nuclear weapons, saying, “We hear Iran‘s rulers say that they do not seek a nuclear weapon, only peaceful nuclear energy. Well, then why have they rejected the past offers from the international community for incentives, even cooperation on light water reactors? Why has Iran rejected, thus far, Russia‘s offer of uranium enrichment in Russia? Why, as the IAEA’s most recent report shows, is Iran continuing to enrich uranium, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions? Why, as the IAEA also suggests, are parts of Iran‘s nuclear program under the control of the Iranian military? And why is Iran continuing to deny international experts full access to its nuclear facilities? Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s just hard to imagine that there are innocent answers to these questions … when the President of Iran stated his desire to ‘wipe Israel off the map,’ it was the United States that arranged a 10-year, $30 billion security package to help Israel defend its homeland against any threat … A regime that denies the Holocaust, threatens – murders – its neighbors’ citizens, and seeks to destroy a member of the United Nations should not be allowed to cross the nuclear threshold” (Secretary Condoleezza Rice, ‘Remarks At the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference,’ June 3, 2008).


However there were many negative, inaccurate, inconsistent and disconcerting passages in her speech as well, which are analyzed below:


·         “Palestinians have waited too long, amid daily humiliations, for the dignity of an independent state:” Legitimate security measures undertaken by any state to protect the lives of its citizens are fundamentally justified and cannot constitute humiliation. Americans willingly endure long lines and intrusive security checks at airports for this purpose. Palestinians should appreciate these measures and work to root out the terrorists who make them necessary, not condemn the measures while praising terrorists.

·         “Our Administration promised from our very first days that America‘s enduring commitment to Israel‘s security would be absolutely unshakeable on our watch. And that is a promise that we have kept”: Unfortunately, this has not been Bush Administration policy in practice. Five examples: 1. During the Israeli unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in September 2005, Secretary Rice personally pressured Israel to relinquish the Philadelphi Corridor along the Gaza/Egypt border and hand over security control to the Palestinian Authority (PA) and European Union (EU) monitors. The result was a massive upsurge of terrorist infiltration and weapons smuggling into Gaza. The result has been an unprecedented smuggling of weapons and terrorists into Gaza for which Israelis will, once again, pay with their lives when, at some future date, an Israeli government is obliged to enter Gaza and deal with increasing security risks and terror originating there. 2. Rice was also a key advocate of Palestinian elections that included Hamas and which led to Hamas’ electoral victory, paving the way to its seizure of Gaza last year. 3. In March 2008, Rice reportedly applied pressure on Israel to remove 50 roadblocks in Judea and Samaria, which she called “a very good start” to improving Palestinians’ freedom of movement, which she regards as a key element in the peace process designed to lead by year’s end to a Palestinian state. (‘Israel to Remove 50 West Bank Barriers,’ Washington Post, March 31, 2008). These roadblocks are part of the network of security measures that have foiled almost all of the average of 15 terror attempts per month launched from Judea and Samaria and their removal, agreed to reluctantly by Israel and opposed by Israeli security services, endangers Israeli lives. 4. Rice did not refer to, and the Bush Administration has taken no serious steps to apply pressure in response to, Egypt‘s failure to stop the infiltration of terrorists and smuggling of offensive weaponry into Gaza from Egypt. Instead, the Bush Administration continues to give high levels of U.S. foreign aid to Egypt. 5. Bush Administration officials have consistently refused to endorse specific Israeli security measures and counter-terrorist actions, and almost always have called upon Israel to bear in mind the consequences for negotiations of any action undertaken by Israel – code for urging Israel not to retaliate strongly or decisively in a sustained manner.

·         “We must also support all leaders and citizens in the Middle East who advance their aspirations non-violently … that … on the one hand, strengthens responsible leaders and citizens who reject terrorism, while on the other hand, isolating and marginalizing extremists.”: This is only part of the necessary equation. It is not enough that Palestinian leaders profess in English support for non-violent methods to achieve their goals – they must also be dedicated to this in practice and their actual goals must be legitimate. The U.S. should not be in business of supporting Palestinian leaders who seek Israel‘s dismantling but who profess support for non-violence – and that is precisely the unacceptable mixture that defines PA president Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah regime. Abbas has said in Arabic to Arab audiences that “It is not required of Hamas, or of Fatah, or of the Popular Front to recognize Israel” (Al-Arabiya [Dubai] and PA TV, October 3, 2006, Palestinian Media Watch); that terrorists are “heroes fighting for freedom” (Age [Melbourne], January 3, 2005); whom “Israel calls … murderers, we call them strugglers” (Jerusalem Post, December 25, 2004); that the death of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine founder and leader George Habash was a  “great loss for the Palestinian cause” (Daily Star [Beirut], January 28, 2008); and that he does not reject terrorism in principle, saying that, “At this present juncture, I am opposed to the armed struggle because we can’t succeed in it, but maybe in the future things will be different” (Jerusalem Post, February 28, 2008). In addition to refusing to publicly accept Israel as a Jewish state both before and since last year’s Annapolis summit, Abbas in May 2006, named Mahmoud Damra, wanted by Israel for leading shooting and roadside bomb attacks against Israelis, including the killing of IDF soldiers near Neve Tzuf in 2000 and of an Israeli citizen near Tapuach, in Samaria, in 2001, as commander of Fatah’s Force 17. Damra also served under Yasser Arafat in order to escape Israeli arrest (Israel National News, 7, May 30, 2006). Abbas also announced on June 4, 2008 that he wishes to negotiate with Hamas and unify the Palestinian movement with this terror movement that calls for the murder of Jews.

·         “The opportunity before us has been created by painstaking work since 2001, painstaking work that rejected the leadership of Yasser Arafat and said that it could not be that peace would be made by a corrupt leader who had one foot in terrorism”: For all the reasons just mentioned, Mahmoud Abbas shares Arafat’s goals and often his methods. Fatah itself has a terrorist militia, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which has murdered over 500 Israelis in scores of terrorist acts since September 2000. Fatah recently produced a 43rd anniversary poster depicting Israel draped in a Palestinian headdress, the kffiyeh, flanked by an image of Arafat and a Kalashnikov rifle. Abbas, like Arafat before him, has sheltered wanted terrorists in the Muqata, his presidential compound in Ramallah, including Khaled Shawish, a senior Fatah commander responsible for the murder of 19 Israelis and the wounding of dozens more in numerous attacks, until Israeli forces captured him when he ventured outside the compound in May 2007 (Jerusalem Post, May 31, 2007). By no stretch of the imagination can it be said that Abbas does not have “one foot in terrorism.”

·         “What are also needed are decent Palestinian leaders who fight terrorism, provide opportunity, and strengthen a culture of tolerance among their people.  After all, who believes that peace can really be possible if textbooks and television teach children to hate?”: All true, and it is precisely these benchmarks that have not been met by Abbas’ PA, which she  continues to hail as a moderate, peace-seeking Palestinian leadership.

·         “… responsible leaders and citizens have now emerged in the Palestinian territories. They are trying to realign their society around values of non-violence … President Abbas is the legitimate, elected leader of all Palestinians, and he and his government are working to prevent their society from becoming a beachhead for violent extremism”: Were it only true. In addition to Abbas’ complete failure in that regard, Palestinian polls show majority Palestinian support for terrorism targeting Israelis, the ‘so-called ‘right of return’ and other positions clearly inconsistent with acceptance of Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. Two examples: 1. An Najah National University’s Palestinian Public Opinion Poll No. 34, conducted during May 15-17, 2008, showed Palestinians rejecting statehood alongside Israel by 57.6 % to 39.5%.  A March 2008 Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR) poll found that 84% of Palestinians approve of the March 6, 2008 terrorist attack on Jerusalem’s Mercaz Harav seminary that resulted in the murder of eight Israelis, while 64% of Palestinians support the rocket attacks being launched from Gaza upon Israeli cities.

·         “The ideology of violent extremism in the Middle East makes the creation of a peaceful, effective Palestinian state more urgent, not less”: The opposite is true: Peace and tranquility are much more suggestive of the usefulness of setting up a Palestinian state. To do so under fire and when Palestinian society is transfixed by extremism is reward for terror and likely to produce more of the same. Negotiations and concessions should be a reward for moderation, not an inducement for moderation. To promote Palestinian statehood now would simply lead to the creation of another terrorist state.

·         “the only responsible policy is to work with decent Palestinians who want and should be able to end the occupation that began in 1967”: The ‘occupation’, which emerged in disputed and unallocated territory under international law as a result of Arab aggression is no longer even operative: 98% of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria live under PA rule and would never see an Israeli soldier or tank but for the persistence of Palestinian terrorism. As the territory in question never belonged to any other state and was illegally annexed by Jordan until that date, Israel is not even a conventional occupier in international law.

·         “[Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon] once told me a story that I will never forget. It was before Israel‘s disengagement from Gaza, and he said that he went out to talk with Israeli settlers, because he, of course, had been the father of the settlement movement. He went to one family and he explained to them why it was important to share the land. And this man said, “Let me show you something.” And he showed Sharon the mezuzah above their house, and he told Sharon, “You personally put that mezuzah there. You told us that this was good for Israel, for us to settle here, and now you tell us that we have to leave for the good of Israel.” Sharon was deeply pained by that. I could see it even as he told the story. But that is what great leaders do: They make hard decisions confidently for the sake of peace”: The vaunted step for peace Rice praises was Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza which led to more terrorism against Israel, more weapons smuggling and terrorist infiltration from Egypt into Gaza and incessant rocket assaults upon neighboring Israeli towns and cities. To make concessions for peace is one thing: to make concessions leading to greater danger and bloodshed is another. Would anyone after World War Two praise Neville Chamberlain for making a “hard decision” for the sake of peace” in the form of the Munich agreement?


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