For an administration that bills itself as having a groundbreaking new doctrine when it comes to the Middle East, the Bush administration is starting to look a bit too close for our taste to the Clinton administration, at least on the question of Israel's rights in Jerusalem. Reading Secretary of State Rice's comments in an interview Thursday with the Los Angeles Times, we were hard-pressed to tell if it was Ms. Rice or President Clinton.
Here is Ms. Rice, commenting on Israel's plans to add 3,500 housing units in Maale Adumim, a suburb that is four and a half miles east of Jerusalem: "We've noted our concern to the Israelis," she said. "We will continue to note that this is at odds with the - of American policy." She said of Israel's reply to the concerns: "anything that raises the prospect that you're going to have an expansion of settlements in this way, particularly in a sensitive area, is not really a satisfactory response." And here is President Clinton, answering a question in 1997 about Israel's plans to build in the Har Homa area of Jerusalem: "I would have preferred the decision not have been made, because I don't think it builds confidence, I think it builds mistrust. And I wish that it had not been made."
Israel is planning to build houses in a suburb of its capital, a capital that, according to the Jerusalem Embassy Act passed by Congress in 1995 by a vote of 93 to 5 in the Senate and 347 to 37 in the House, "should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel" and "should remain an undivided city." This decision to build houses in a suburb of the capital is deemed not satisfactory by Ms. Rice. It is deemed by the editorialists of the New York Times to be "a slap in the face of the new Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas" and evidence that "Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel doesn't quite get it yet." The Washington Post used an entire editorial of its own over the weekend to call on President Bush to press Mr. Sharon to freeze the plan.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Arabs engage in genuine outrage after genuine outrage with hardly a peep out of Ms. Rice or the liberal editorial writers. Mr. Abbas has failed in his obligation to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure. Abu Musab, a leader of the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade, a Palestinian Arab terrorist group, told the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot, "What's happening now isn't considered a calm. It's merely a warrior's rest." The Palestinians were recently caught smuggling anti-aircraft missiles into Gaza.
Mr. Abbas has announced plans to release from prison Ahmed Saadat and Fuad Shubaki. Mr. Saadat is the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which our State Department lists as a terrorist group responsible for the assassination in 2001 of Israel's tourism minister and for airline hijackings that have killed at least 20 American citizens. Mr. Shubaki is an aide to Yasser Arafat who documents show made the deal to buy the arms from Iran that Arafat was smuggling in aboard the ship the Karine-A. Mr. Abbas's response when asked by Time magazine who was responsible for the February 25 suicide bombing that killed five Israelis in Tel Aviv: "If you ask me who is responsible, the Israelis are responsible." The Palestinian Authority-controlled press praised the suicide bomber as a martyr.
It is nothing less than warped to look at this situation and see Israeli home-building as the unsatisfactory part of it. There is no question where the logic leads. As Norman Podhoretz writes in the April number of Commentary, the whole world "takes as axiomatic the Arab position that a Palestinian state must be judenrein." Therefore, the 30,000 current residents of Maale Adumim "face the prospect of being dragged out of their homes by the Israeli army and packed off to 'Israel proper.' " As Mr. Podhoretz paraphrases his Israeli daughter telling him indignantly, if any such thing "were to be done to Palestinians, or to anyone else, it would be called 'transfer' or 'ethnic cleansing' and would be condemned as a crime against humanity. But with Jews as the victims, it is being transmuted by a malignant political alchemy into nothing less than an act of justice." Such is the Arab position. Alas, the Bush administration and Ms. Rice, like the Democratic administration that preceded them, do not yet appear to have fully broken free of it.
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