March 14, 2002
A Letter to Tom Friedman
I heard you had a great trip to Saudi Arabia. In the privacy of their homes people removed their veils and expressed their true feelings. Even the crown prince, the guy who really runs Saudi Arabia, spent some time with you.
Apparently he has a great new idea. Israel should leave the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights and the Arab states will recognize the Jewish state. Sounds great. There is only one problem. This is what then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat and Syria's President Bashar Al Assad just a year or two ago.
When Arafat rejected the deal, Barak implored then-President Bill Clinton to use his famous persuasive powers to help him convince Arafat to take the deal. Arafat wasn't interested. He wanted a few million refugees to fill Israeli towns and cities, displacing the present Jewish population. When Arafat did not get his way, he launched Intifada Two.
It's a funny thing about you guys on the political left. You don't seem to learn from your mistakes. From time to time we talk, and I remember telling you two years ago, "Tom, if Israel gives up the Golan and Assad decides he wants to go to war, we will have a serious problem." You said, "You're right," but you still felt we should take the risk for peace.
Let's get real. We took the risk. We gave Arafat the land, and today 90 percent of the Palestinians live on land the PA controls. We sweetened the package by giving them guns and training their 40,000-man police force to use automatic weapons (by the way, there is no police force in the United States that carries those kinds of guns). Everyone was told not to worry, Arafat would control the terrorists and peace would reign.
We on the right, who said, "Hey, let's take a deeper look," were lambasted. When we pointed out that the Palestinian schools teach kids to be suicide bombers, we were told the curriculum is "under development." One those graduates, an 18-year-old Palestinian teenager, blew up a bunch of kids and their parents coming home from services on March 2. When we mentioned the fact that Arafat spoke in English one way, and to his own people he still spoke about war, we were told "he doesn't really mean it." When we said they would use their land as a base to shoot at Jerusalem again, we were informed the Israeli army could handle any problem. Just ask the residents of Gilo about that.
The Oslo Accords transformed the political equation. By taking Arafat -- known for hijacking planes, killing children and murdering Olympic athletes from Tunis to Ramallah -- we empowered him. Israel rewarded him for his years of terror; it even helped arrange a Nobel Prize. Instead of the Palestinians seeing the acts as one of strength, they viewed it as weakness. When Israel unilaterally left Lebanon, they said, "We drove the Jews out, and we will soon drive them out of all of Palestine."
Over the last few weeks, while you've been floating your Saudi proposal and the left fringe has been raising its head in Israel, again the violence has been escalating. Why? It's simple: Arafat thinks he's going to get his way and you guys are empowering him once again.
Tom, we tried your ideas. Your "Land for Peace" approach didn't work. We gave up the land and we have no peace. What we do have is a weakened military position. The world, especially the Europeans, love us even less. Recently, when Sharon finally started to make a serious effort to eradicate the terrorists, Powell complained. -- this as he is bombing Afghanistan.
Today, Arafat is sending the graduates of Ramallah High to bomb us and his police force to shoot at us. His buddies in Hamas are making rockets, and the Fatah that he personally controls launches attacks daily.
It's time to get real. We tried to be nice and it didn't work. Unless we transform the political environment once again, things will never get better. It's time to send Arafat and his buddies back to Tunis. Don't worry, the PLO has tons of money packed away in banks around the world. They can afford the move. We can even let him take his Nobel Prize along so he can put in on the wall to remember those few fond years he had in Gaza and the West Bank.
As long as we allow his terrorist state to continue to exist, we will never have peace. Today, the Palestinians think Israel is weak, and they dream of taking all of Israel. It's time to give them a reality check. Israel should take a cue from the United States. They got rid of the Taliban, so, too, the Palestinian Authority must be uprooted. If not, their dreams will continue to be our nightmares. Maybe after we change the curriculum in their schools and shut down their radio stations that spew hatred, a new generation of Palestinians will grow up that will leave the dreams of destroying Israel behind.
With them there might be something to talk about.