Scenic photo of Dismals Canyon

Middle Eastern Conflict - Who Is Right?

April 17, 2002
In The News

The tense situation in the Middle East is one with no easy answer. And we are now at the point where the situation is jeopardizing the long-term prospects for peace in the troubled region. As tensions flair, the United States must walk a fine line while monitoring these unstable relationships abroad. We must encourage peace, and understand that continuing terrorism is the enemy of peace.

It has been said that the major problem in the Middle East is – and I agree – that that area of the world has too much history and not enough geography.

This past week, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a trip to Capitol Hill to discuss the current situation in Israel with members of the House and Senate. I took the opportunity to meet with Netanyahu and listen to some of his thoughts with the current situation in Israel.

He was dispatched to the U.S. by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to persuade America not to give in to European and Arab opposition to Israel’s recent incursion into Palestinian cities.

At the meeting, Mr. Netanyahu pointed out that on the Palestinian Authority Internet site, the state of Israel is shown as “Palestine” and this is a part of a greater Palestine that Mr. Arafat hopes to create.

The United States needs to be ready to supply a strong voice in discussing the region’s future, while realizing that the choice of peace must me made by those involved, not just outside interests.

I have already stated my support, in the form of a letter to President Bush, of his firm stand against Palestinian terrorism and this country’s resolute message that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat must be held accountable for the free rein of terrorist groups.

I also urged the President to take even stronger action by adding the Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, the Tanzim, and Force 17 to the U.S. list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. These terrorist groups, which are militant elements of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), are responsible for fierce attacks against Israeli civilians and Americans living in, and visiting Israel. It has come to a point where, it seems, nearly every attack is committed by a group with a connection to Arafat.

These organizations have organized some of the most gruesome terrorist attacks in Israel. That includes a December, 2001, attack that killed 10 Israeli civilians and wounded another 25 in a roadside ambush. Just a month later, the same group claimed responsibility for an attack on a reception hall where a gunman opened fire on guests of a young girl’s Bat-Mitzvah. That tragedy killed 6 Israelis and wounded dozens more.

In just the last few weeks and even days, there have been several more disturbing attacks in the area, producing an even more tense climate. These attacks sometimes average one a day. As the President recently noted, when an 18-year-old Palestinian girl is triggered to blow herself up, and in the process kills a 17-year-old Israeli girl, the future, itself, is dying -- both the future of the Palestinian people and the future of the Israeli people. As tragic as the loss of life is, the damage is just as substantial to the hope of peace; the hope of Israel's and the Israelis' desire for security, safety, and peace with its neighbors.

Regrettably, these incidents, and many more like them, only confirm Yasser Arafat’s tolerance for violence, and demonstrate that he has a long way to go before he can be considered a relevant partner in negotiating for the region’s future.

The future is certainly uncertain for this historic part of the world. In someways, it really can not get worse; however, we certainly do not want to see if it could.

Whatever the outcome in that region, America should promote peace and stability by promoting democracy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.