I would like to focus today on a Post column by Evelyn Gordon, entitled, "Benchmarks for a bloodbath," because I consider it so important. Gordon says:
"US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is not purposely trying to destroy all of Israel’s hard-won security gains of the last five years. But if she were, she could hardly have improved on her new benchmark proposal. The proposal comprises two parallel sets of "benchmarks": steps (mainly Israeli) to increase Palestinian freedom of movement, and steps (mainly Palestinian) to combat Palestinian terror. However, it does not make either track conditional on the other. Thus should Israel accept the proposal, it would be pledging to fulfill its own side of the bargain regardless of whether the Palestinians honored theirs. And since increased freedom of movement for Palestinians includes increased freedom of movement for terrorists, that essentially means an Israeli pledge to facilitate terrorist operations even if the Palestinian Authority makes no compensatory effort to thwart such operations.
"Indeed, the document explicitly requires Israel to dismantle many security precautions prior to the relevant PA security actions. For instance, it requires full deployment of a revamped PA security service in Gaza only by the end of 2007; yet Israel would have to start allowing regular convoys between Gaza and the West Bank on July 1. Thus six months before PA forces are even in position to combat Gazan terror, Israel would be required to facilitate the export of this terror to the West Bank.
"AND SOMETIMES there is no parallel demand of the PA at all. For instance, the document requires Israel to remove various West Bank checkpoints on June 1 and June 15. Yet it mandates no Palestinian counterterrorism efforts in the West Bank; such efforts are required only in Gaza. Israel would thus be facilitating terrorist movement in the West Bank without any recompense in the form of improved Palestinian counterterrorism.
"This lack of reciprocity would not matter if the benchmarks were all as innocuous as creating a Web site to provide information on the operating hours of border crossings (No. 6) or establishing express lanes for trucks carrying fresh produce at the Karni checkpoint (No. 11). However, several of them strike at the heart of the security mechanisms that have dramatically reduced Israeli casualties over the last five years.
"One of these is the removal of army checkpoints, including around terrorist hotbeds such as Nablus. This has already been tried countless times – and each time terrorists exploited their new freedom of movement to launch a successful attack from the area in question. Put bluntly, absent dramatic Palestinian action against terrorism, removing checkpoints is a proven recipe for producing dead Israelis.
"FAR WORSE, however, is the proposal for regular passenger and cargo convoys between Gaza and the West Bank. The document does not discuss security arrangements for these convoys, but every previous incarnation of this proposal has assumed that Israel would either not conduct security checks at all, or would at most conduct superficial checks that would cause minimal delays; the PA would bear primary responsibility for ensuring that no terrorists or weapons were smuggled from Gaza to the West Bank.
"Indeed, this is essential both to the proposal’s practical goal (freedom of movement between Gaza and the West Bank, meaning without lengthy delays caused by exhaustive Israeli security checks) and its ideological goal: demonstrating that Gaza and the West Bank are a unified entity under Palestinian sovereignty."
The stuff of nightmares, from our "friends." Gordon suggests that Rice is willing to sacrifice Israeli lives to give the impression to "moderate" Arabs and Europeans — whose support is being sought re: Iraq — that progress is being made on this front.
US Deputy National Security Adviser Elliot Abrams concurs with Gordon. At a closed door meeting with Jewish Republicans he confided that the Bush administration was active now in the Middle East, in order to pursue "process for the sake of process" and that this was being done to "assuage the Arabs and the Europeans, who haven’t been happy with the United States [and are] happy to see that there’s at least an attempt or energy being put into the peace process."
Abrams pledged to guard against the State Department taking over American Middle East policy, and I’d love to know how he intends to do this. (The unspoken implication is that White House and State Department policy are not the same. This is hardly new.)
When meeting participants expressed concern about Europe and the Arabs squeezing Israel into a corner, they were offered assurances about the US putting the brakes on. And after how much damage has already been done?.
Oh joy. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is doing her diplomatic thing. She was in Cairo today, meeting with President Mubarak about the Arab League "peace initiative." They agreed that an Arab League delegation — including the Jordanian and Egyptian foreign ministers — would come to Israel within weeks to discuss this.
Remember that the Arab League proposal, which insists upon return of "refugees" and our pullback to pre-’67 lines, was offered to us "take it or leave it." Jordan and Egypt, the only Arab states with full diplomatic ties, were assigned the task of convincing us.
Syrian President Assad who alternately is said to be on the verge of war or on the verge of peace negotiations, made a statement to a newly formed Syrian parliament: “The Golan Heights region is not open to negotiation… “We are working toward a just and comprehensive peace, but Israel is incapable of conducting comprehensive and just negotiations because its government is too weak to take the necessary steps…Syria has not presented any preconditions for the peace process, but we do have demands. The land is a basic principle for us, and we will never relinquish it."
Got all that?
Security sources say that 15 tunnels between Gaza and Egypt in the Rafah area are currently active — being used for smuggling of weapons, persons and drugs. Another 10 tunnels in the area are at the moment inactive.
Three Kassams landed in Sderot today.