President Clinton, revealing a distressingly marked incapacity for correct reasoning, has compared Jewish opponents of the Middle East Peace Process with Hamas terrorists. Concluding, in a press conference following the Tel Aviv suicide bombing, that the two very different camps, because they both share an aversion to the same thing, are more or less equal to each other, Mr. Clinton offered a textbook case of what logicians describe as a fallacy. In this case, both Hamas and Jewish opponents of the Oslo Accords want an end to the Process, but, as the president fails to see, for very different motives and with very different tactics. Moreover, the implicit moral equation of the two camps by Mr Clinton is altogether objectionable, as Hamas vents its opposition by the indiscriminate mass murder of men, women and children while Jewish opponents demonstrate quietly in their own communities against war and terror for the physical survival of their state.
Hamas opposes the Peace Process because it genuinely opposes peace. Jewish opponents of the Labor Government's policies, on the other hand, oppose the Peace Process because it is producing only war. Desperate for real peace, and aware of Orwellian linguistic manipulations that call war peace and peace war, these Jewish people in Israel and elsewhere warrant the full support of the American president, not his ill- conceived comparison with murderers. It is not these seekers after real peace who have blood on their hands - the blood of so many recent Jewish victims of Arab terrorism - but the President of the United States.
Soon Israel may face the threat of unconventional war from Iran, a dangerous rogue state that is essentially the Hamas terrorist writ large, the individual Islamic suicide bomber in macrocosm. When the threat becomes intolerably high, the Jewish state may have to choose once again between capitulation or preemption, between a juridical "peace" with Iran that opens it up to annihilation or a "no peace" condition with the Islamic Republic that gives Israel a reasonable chance to endure. Here, President Clinton will predictably identify the first option as "peace" and the second as "war." If Israel chooses incorrectly again, in part because of unfortunate and misguided pressures from Washington, the cost this time may be not dozens of corpses in the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, but tens of thousands of Jewish prompt fatalities and latent deaths.
Israelis must understand, immediately, that the President of the United States, like their own prime minister, is not a serious thinker. He means well, of course, but his demonstrated intellectual capacity to analyze serious and complex strategic issues is exceedingly limited. Informed by the sort of wisdom that can fit conveniently on index cards, this president wants very badly to appear erudite and elegant (his entire persona is shamelessly patterned after John F Kennedy) but his inevitable failures in this objective should not be at the extraordinary expense of Israel's very survival. To survive into the future, Israel must recognize promptly that its Islamic adversaries see all conflict with the Jewish State in zero-sum terms, and that cooperative interactions with Israel, in this view, are always an oxymoron. Such an argument, naturally, will be offensive to the more fashionable sentiments of Israeli and American academics, but these sentiments have always been for Israel a guaranteed path to national despair. In this connection, Israeli researchers at Tel Aviv's Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies created the essential government blueprint for uncontrollable terror and catastrophic war that now plagues the country. How many Israelis can recall that it was an Israeli reserve general, lecturing a year ago at the Jaffee Center, who called for recruitment of experienced terrorists by Arafat's security forces as the correct way to "peace?"
Israel's current march to disappearance began during the 1991 Gulf War, when its government cravenly decided to absorb 39 Iraqi SCUD missiles without any form of retaliation. Later, after signing the Declaration of Principles with the PLO on the White House lawn in 1993, Jerusalem effectively agreed to accept repeated terrorist murders of Israelis with impunity. After each successive murder of Jewish citizens, President Clinton - always resolutely unmindful of serious thought - prodded the hapless government in Jerusalem to accept these Jewish deaths as the "price of peace." Quite incomprehensibly, neither the American President nor the Israeli Prime Minister ever thought of taking Palestinian threats seriously, of rebuking Arafat's repeated calls for Jihad, or of recognizing the blatantly obvious collaborations between PLO and Hamas.
For their part, Israel's Islamic enemies will continue to maim, bomb and torture Jews (it is always Jews, not Israelis) wherever they can. For them, PLO or Hamas, "peace" is only a tactic of expedient warfare, a temporary deception that allows seemingly disparate Arab forces to fulfil their irreversibly doctrinal expectations of Jihad, or Holy War. The conflict between Jews and Palestinians, after all, is not about land (this is the sort of journalistic fiction accepted by a naive American president and by his even more naive advisors) but about GOD. And all Muslims who take their marching orders from Teheran will acknowledge that God and the Prophet command a vast number of Jewish corpses - not Jewish territories - as the suitable price of entry into Paradise.
Soon, the Hamas commitment to "total war," now reinforced by the Government of Israel, may be joined by Iran. If Israel is caught unprepared, the price it will have to pay could be authentically existential. Should this be allowed to happen, the President of the United States will doubtlessly wring his hands in great sadness, but he will have a convenient excuse: "I really did not understand". What will be Israel's excuse?
LOUIS RENE BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is the author of fourteen books and several hundred scholarly articles dealing with international relations and international law. He lectures and publishes widely in Israel on matters concerning terrorism, nuclear strategy and nuclear war.