MIDDLE EAST POLICY
There seems little doubt that President Clinton's visit to the Middle East was meant to shore up support for Shimon Peres in the coming Israeli election.
The Arab terrorist bombs that shattered two Jerusalem buses, a Tel Aviv shopping center and an Ashkelon bus stop (in addition to the suicide driver on French Hill) also shattered the illusion that the Clinton administration has been scoring a "foreign policy success" in the Middle East.
The Administration's policy of "encouraging" Israel to make concessions to the PLO, and giving the PLO hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, was based on the belief that money and land could buy "peace."
It's not working. Money to the PLO does not promote peace. It lines the pocket of Arafat and his cronies. It provides kickbacks for corrupt PLO contractors. Some of it has been redirected by the PLO to its "Martyrs Fund" in Amman,
sent to PLO camps in Lebanon for propaganda and military activities, or, in at least one case last year, given to the Hamas Youth Movement ($20,000). Giving the PLO land doesn't work either. It just whets the Arabs' appetite. Arafat has never forsaken his "Phased Plan"—Gaza and Jericho as phase one,
the rest of Judea and Samaria as phase two, and Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa as phase three. The only difference between the PLO and Hamas is that Hamas is more impatient.
The Clinton administration, and the Peres government, prefer to pretend that the "good" PLO will now fight the "bad" Hamas. But the PLO and Hamas are much cleverer than their Israeli and American negotiating partners. They know how to play good cop-bad cop. The bad cop plants the bombs. The good cop arrests a few, then lets them out a week later.
The low-level Hamas members who have been detained by the PLO will stay in jail until after the "Anti-Terrorism Summit," but are not likely to remain behind bars much longer. After Peres and Arafat have finished their photo-ops with the American president, the Arabs
will resume business as usual.
In other words, the PLO will continue its quiet collaboration with Hamas. The Hamas offices in Syria and Jordan will continue to operate. And Prime Minister Peres will anxiously watch the polls to see if posing with the President has boosted his sinking electoral hopes.
One hopes that the Israeli public will not be fooled by President Clinton's attempt to influence their election. Unfortunately, American involvement in domestic Israeli politics is not a new phenomenon and has been effective in the past--the Bush administration influenced the previous Israeli election by threatening to withhold the loan guarantees.
Instead of going to the Middle East, the President should make a much shorter journey, across the street to the State Department, and tell the career Arabists there that the Mideast policy they have shaped has proven to be a failure.
Instead of peace, it has brought unprecedented bloodshed and it has brought the PLO to the brink of establishing an irredentist state that will threaten American interests throughout the region.
Herbert Zweibon is chairman of Americans for A Safe Israel.