"You can't afford to sign up to a peace agreement that is all one-sided, meaning Israel takes all the risks," observed retired U.S. Admiral Leon A. Edney to small groups of Jewish leaders in Beverly Hills last week. "We need to find a way to live in peace with the Arab world, but it's not done with appeasement."
Edney, the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, argued that Israel and the United States must assess security risks carefully. "There is some sort of disconnect between [Palestinian Authority President Yasser] Arafat saying he wants peace, and his actions. It's hard to tell what Mr. Arafat's motivations are, but it's hard to convince me his heart is in the right place after he released 25 of world's worst terrorists from jail." Edney's whirlwind visit was sponsored by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), which brings together political and military leaders with Jewish community leaders to discuss Mideast events.
Edney met with select groups at several locations, putting forth the possibility that terrorism would increase both inside the United States and Israel.
"People aren't thinking about security," warned Edney, who served as a military officer for more than 37 years. "They've got their heads in the sand."
Events such as the recent attack on the USS Cole and the bombing at the World Trade Center point to the dangers of violent Islamic radicalism in an era of rapid technological change, Edney said.
Edney also emphasized that Israel's proximity to its enemies makes it extremely vulnerable. "If Israel today could deal with her foreign policy with the absolute assurance that any missile, ballistic or cruise, that was set towards her, with any weapon, which could be nuclear, chemical, or biological, could be shot down that would increase her security immensely. She can't do that now, but the Arrow system can do that better than any other system."
Edney also touched upon the war being fought in the press.
"Terrorists blow up a bus because they know it will get a strong reaction, and the press will portray that strong reaction as Israel being the bully and the aggressor," continued Edney. "It's a totally false picture."
While critical of the press in general for not applying standards of truthfulness, Edney singled out National Public Radio's coverage of events as particularly biased. "NPR sometimes acts like an arm of the Palestinian Authority," he said.
Edney's visit is part of a major push by JINSA to raise its public profile. The organization recently placed ads in The New York Times and USA Today condemning the Palestinian Authority's promotion of violence. The ads were signed by 44 retired military leaders and also ran in Israel's major newspapers. Edney is on JINSA's advisory board of directors.
"The choices are limited, but Arafat and Hamas are not the only alternatives that Israel has," concluded Edney.