ROAD MAP TO WHERE?

By Israel H. Asper
Toronto, July 29, 2003

The following are highlights of the keynote address given by Israel Asper, Chair of Canwest Global Communications, at the Memorial Evening marking the 63rd anniversary of the death of early Zionist thinker Ze'ev Jabotinksy. The public lecture was sponsored by B'nai Brith and Herut-Likud.

…My function tonight is to comment on the facts, and not the philosophies confronting Israel as it addresses the American, Russian, European Union and UN-promoted "road map to peace in the Middle East"--and to help answer the question, Is this a road map to peace? A road map to heaven? Or a road map to hell? Is it a trap, or a treadmill to nowhere? It has been called by some critics "Oslo refurbished," and "Auschwitz updated," by others. U.S. Christian leader Pat Robertson has called it "insanity and the end of Israel." Its supporters call it a panacea for peace, but I fear they may be the same na´ve and delusional pacifists whose rose-coloured view of Arab intentions is responsible for the Oslo debacle of death and destruction…

We are all familiar with the 1993 Oslo peace process. In the seven years of that activity, Israel delivered to the Arabs everything that it promised, but the Arabs did not keep a single one of the commitments they had made. Terrorism continued, and the incitement to violence and hatred continued in the Palestinian schools, mosques, media, and political rhetoric.

In 2000, under the pressure and influence of President Bill Clinton, and in a desperate attempt to achieve a final peace under the Oslo umbrella, the Camp David Summit was held, where Israel's Labor Prime Minister Barak made an egregious offer, giving the Palestinians almost everything they outrageously demanded. But even that wasn't good enough for Arafat, who rejected it and returned to Ramallah to plot, organize and launch the current uprising. Then 9/11 intervened, and suddenly President George W. Bush had to face the ugly realities of Islamic terrorism… On June 24, 2002, President Bush made a speech in the Rose Garden… There, he recognized Arafat as the master terrorist he has been all his life, and called for a "new and different Palestinian leadership so that a Palestinian state can be born." He said such new leadership must not be "compromised by terror," must practice democracy, reform all its institutions, abandon terror, end incitement to hatred and adopt a new constitution giving its people full liberty… He also spelled out what would be expected of the Israelis.

This was the forerunner to the road map, which was formally tabled by the Quartet three months ago, on April 30. The Palestinian authority, created under the Oslo agreements, said it would accept the road map. Israel, determined not to reward terrorism, tabled 14 reservations, and after being promised by President Bush that the reservations would be given serious and sympathetic consideration as the process moved along, agreed to follow the map.

As you read, listen to, or watch today's media, you would think that the road map is all about Israel refusing to free captured terrorist prisoners. You would think it was about Israel building a security fence to keep out Arab terrorists. You would think it is about Israel being forced to let Palestinian workers, terrorists amongst them, come back in to work in Israel. You would think it was about demanding that Israel make "confidence-building" gestures to support Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas… The road map is about none of these. In fact, none of these matters is even part of the road map. They are merely red herrings dragged across the picture by the Palestinians to try to distract the world from the fact that they are not carrying out their commitments that the road map actually provides, and to which they say they've agreed.

The road map is divided into three phases, the second being contingent on the first being complete, and the third being contingent on the second being complete… Phase One [consists of the following steps]:

1. President Bush's speech of June 24/02 was adopted as the cornerstone philosophy.

2. The Palestinians are to immediately implement an unconditional cessation of violence.

3. The Palestinians are to immediately end the incitement to hatred and the celebration of homicide bombers.

4. The Palestinians will draft a new constitution providing for free, fair and democratic elections and government.

5. Israel is to take steps to normalize Palestinian life.

6. Israel will withdraw from Palestinian areas occupied after September 28, 2000 as and when security is provided by Palestinians.

7. Israel issues an unequivocal statement affirming its commitment to a two-state vision for Palestine.

8. The Palestinians declare an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism and undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis [including] confiscation of illegal weapons and the consolidation of security authority…

9. The Arab states are to cut off public and private funding and all other forms of support for groups supporting and engaging in violence and terror. And, all donations to the Palestinian authority be properly accounted for and used for proper purposes.

10. Israel will dismantle unauthorized settlements and freeze all settlement activity.

11. Israel agrees to take measures to improve the humanitarian situation, lifting curfews, removing check-points and easing restrictions on movement.

[Note that] there is no language which could conceivably expand the meaning to include the release of prisoners, the restriction on building of a security fence, or releasing Arafat…

Although I doubt that we will get to Phase II and III, let's take a look at what they provide… In Phase II, provisional boundaries for the Palestinian state would be established, and when all the other democratization tests have been met, there will be an international conference… It is at this stage that borders, the issue of Jerusalem, the refugees issue, settlements, a comprehensive peace treaty amongst all the countries in the region would be resolved and normal relations with Israel established… Phase III calls for a final international conference to tie up all the loose ends.

Parenthetically, let me draw your attention to the word refugees. Note that it does not say "Arab" or "Palestinian" refugees… I fully expect Israel, or other nations, such as Canada, who attend those conferences, to ensure that the fate and compensation of the 850,000 Jewish refugees from Arab lands will be addressed and be as equitably dealt with concurrently as the case of Palestinian refugees is resolved…

I don't believe you can address these questions without understanding what this war is really all about. It isn't about Jerusalem, it isn't about refugees, it isn't about settlements [nor] borders. This hundred-year war is about the right of the Jewish nation to have…a Jewish state, within the boundaries of the biblical and ancestral homeland of its forebears. The fundamental objective of Arab leadership…has been that Israel must be destroyed; all Jews killed or expelled, and that all Palestine belongs to the Arab world… Unless there is that change in Arab thinking…the creation of a Palestinian state [will lead to] yet another sovereign terror state like Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya [and] to an all out Arab war to wipe out Israel.

My pessimism arises from the current stumbling start down the roadway. Firstly, the road map is premised on a [Palestinian] "regime change"… That simply has not happened. Arafat, the master terrorist, and the thief of billions of dollars meant for the benefit of his own subjugated people, still runs the show… He still controls 60% of the security forces in the regime…and has been allowed full control of negotiations with the Israelis… Arafat continues to make speeches [in Arabic] extolling the heroism of the homicide bombers… This is regime change? This is a renunciation of terrorism? This is an end to incitement? As for his token replacement, Mahmoud Abbas, he is a known Holocaust denier [linked] to terrorism, including the massacre of the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic games…

Instead of the entire Palestinian community denouncing terrorism and laying down arms, Abbas has been able only to produce the hudna. Hudna does not mean "armistice". Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al-Aksa announced an interim ceasefire, which translates from the Arabic as merely an official temporary halt…to the terrorism… There [were] ten ceasefires during Oslo, which the Palestinians unilaterally broke, and six which suffered the same fate since the Intifada began. [The] terrorist organizations have made it conditional on the release of all Israeli captured prisoners of the war. That is simply bizarre. Releasing prisoners, in wartime, only occurs after final peace treaties are signed, not when belligerents announce a war stoppage with the unilateral right to recommence at any time… Hudna is being used to give fighters a summer vacation while they rest, re-arm, recruit and recover from the devastating blows that have been inflicted on them by Israel….

And in an absolute abject rejection of the cornerstone principle of the road map [Abbas] has refused to dismantle the terrorist organizations. Last week in Cairo he said "cracking down on Hamas, Jihad, and the Palestinian organizations is not an option at all." He went on to remind his audience that if he were to attempt to dismantle and destroy and disarm the extremists, it would lead to a Palestinian civil war… There are more than 20,000 Palestinian armed policemen in Gaza alone who are entirely capable of wiping out Hamas and Jihad, but they will not, and that is why the road map has become a farce…

The road map is flawed further by its reference [to] UN Resolution 242 [which] provides that Israel withdraw from territories occupied by it in the 1967 war, consistent with peace and militarily defensible and secure borders. It does not say "all the territories", or even "the territories". It just says "territories". [Israel] gave back all of the Sinai to Egypt, and that constituted 92% of "all the territories." One can argue that that is quite enough…

Israel is now entitled to call a halt to its obligations under the road map, based on Palestinian non-compliance--and it should do exactly that. But, of course, it is not compatible with what President Bush wants, heading into an election year…

What should Israel do? Israel has already paid with 1,000 dead citizens and 5,000 maimed and wounded for the failure of the Oslo process. It cannot afford to repeat that mistake. Thus, Israel should not agree to release Palestinian prisoners who are connected to terrorism. Objective data indicates that one out of every two that were released during the Oslo process comes back as a terrorist…

Israel must continue to build its security fence to keep the terrorists of the future out [but] should not accept the fence as its final border… Israel should also put forward a plan and begin insisting on that plan, saying that since there are 1,200,000 Arabs living in the Israeli state, at least that number of Jews ought to be permitted to live in whatever Palestinian state emerges…

Can Canadians play any role in this international and interminable conflict? What we can do is demand an end to the dishonest reporting by our media. The refusal of the CBC to call a terrorist a terrorist, the taken-as-given that there is a "cycle of violence"…and the call for only "proportionate response" to terrorist activities is nothing short of odious. The media reporting on the release of prisoners is dishonest unless it clearly states that this demand was not a condition of the road map… We and our Christian Zionist friends can ensure that the Canadian public and our politicians know the facts…

Canada is seen as a rational, human-rights oriented country… Our credibility with the United States, the European Union, and the UN is greater than our numbers would suggest… Therefore, Canada has an influential role to play. We are about to elect a new prime minister and we are entitled to call for a complete review of Canada's foreign policy… At the UN…our voting record is unacceptable.

We must demand that our government's CRTC agency refuse to license the broadcast of an Arab government-owned, anti-Israel, anti-Semitic television station, al Jazeera… But if in the name of free speech it should be licensed, then the law should be strengthened to ensure that [cable and satellite companies] are personally liable for any hate incitement they broadcast… We must ask our country, as the chair of the Madrid conference on Middle East refugees, to put on the table (and not permit it to be removed) the compensation for the Jewish refugees from Arab lands, and not allow the word refugees to apply only to Palestinian refugees. [And] we must ask that Canada demand that the United Nations treat Israel…like every other nation, not a pariah nation…

I'm sorry I can't deliver a more optimistic message tonight, but in a 100-year war, it is difficult to be optimistic… Regrettably, tonight, time does not permit me to lay out a Jabotinsky-inspired approach. But, perhaps, at another time, I will have another opportunity to postulate what I think would work to achieve equitable ends for Jews and Arabs alike….

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