See also article from the Associated Press reporting on the Palestinian Authority's admission that warfare was planned.

Israel Needs an Ally

William Safire, New York Times
Oct. 2000

Jerusalem is mentioned over 500 times in the Bible," said Ariel Sharon, at breakfast in New York a couple of weeks ago. "It belongs to the world's Jews, and we in Israel are its custodians. Now, for the first time in thousands of years, a leader of Israel is willing to give up sovereignty in Jerusalem."

The leader of the Likud opposition did not tell me he planned a visit to the Temple Mount to assert that sovereignty. But a few days later, after clearing it with Israeli authorities, that is what he did.

Arab political leaders, as if on cue, instigated a violent attack on Jewish worshipers at the nearby Western Wall and seem to have ordered a militia-supported uprising by Arabs inside and outside Israel. Sovereignty was theirs, their action sacrificing scores of lives proclaimed; only Muslims would determine which Jews, if any, could visit a site revered by more than one religion.

Sharon's pointed but peaceful visit was no more the "cause" of the bloody violence than the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand was the cause of World War I. Rather, it was the militant Arab leaders' excuse for enlisting the world in their battle to make Jerusalem their capital.

What brought the Middle East to the current brink?

First, Yasir Arafat was goaded by leaders of Egypt and Syria to make his adamant demand for total victory in what Israel thought were good- faith negotiations. Second, Prime Minister Ehud Barak's urge to compromise was taken by Arabs to be appeasement, a sign of weakness.

Third, the well-meaning desire of President Clinton to make history in the role of peacemaker led him to position the U.S. as broker, equally trusting of both sides. But Arafat led Clinton down the garden path, gobbling up brokered concessions and giving nothing in return.

Israel does not need a broker; in a hostile world, Israel needs an ally. But no ally on the U.N. Security Council raised its hand to veto a one- sided resolution blaming Israel for orchestrated violence. Malaysia, Namibia, Jamaica, Ukraine - nations that would shoot dead any rioter threatening their police - excoriated Israel for using force to stop firebombers and snipers.

The U.S., still brokering, sought to delay the shameful vote until passions cooled. Tony Blair's Britain and Jacques Chirac's France refused to help.

Our State Department and C.I.A. advised Clinton not to veto, lest terrorists and Arab government-instigated mobs attack our embassies. This was the main reason publicly given for our abstention.

Thus, for the first time, the United States let it be known that our foreign policy decisions can be dictated by fear of terrorist reaction.

After some of the most repugnant U.N. language was modified, Clinton called Barak to see if he would "understand" our fear and would not protest our allowing the Security Council to officially pronounce Israel the villain. The self-isolated Barak could not afford not to "understand." He agreed to shut up as the U.S. let Israel be internationally vilified.

The second reason for allowing the U.N. to castigate Israel was Clinton's forlorn hope to take center stage as broker at yet another summit meeting. This was scorned by Arab leaders who had already used Clinton's good offices to extract concessions from the hapless Barak. Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, recipient of $50 billion in wasted U.S. aid, much prefers summiteering with Iraq's rising Saddam Hussein rather than with America's sinking Bill Clinton.

Israelis are coming to realize that the appearance of weakness displayed in fleeing from Joseph's Tomb is not the path to peace. After all the desperation to make a comprehensive deal, they will soon have the chance in a democratic election to rescind the gamble that so pleased Clinton brokers but so whetted Arab appetites.

If Barak wins, he will most likely ask the next U.S. president to again be broker. If Bibi Netanyahu and/or Arik Sharon win, a realistic "separation process" would take place over time, with clear lines of sovereignty to minimize disputes and grant access to holy sites to all religions. And the U.S., as an unabashed ally, should at last recognize an undivided Jerusalem (mentioned in the Hebrew Bible 667 times, to be exact) as Israel's capital.

See also article from the Associated Press reporting on the Palestinian Authority's admission that warfare was planned.