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  The Map is Not The Territory
by Steven D. Laib, J.D. M.S.
19 June

What President Bush’s roadmap does is treat the Palestinian Authority as an entity that can be negotiated with in the same manner as we would another Western nation.  Nothing could be simpler, except when one side believes that willingness to negotiate is a sign of fear, rather than of civilized behavior.

With the announcement of the Roadmap to Middle East Peace by President Bush there has been a plethora of commentaries, pro and con, about how this proposal may or may not be implemented.  Bush, apparently well intentioned, has done his best to call the necessary parties to the table to get some serious results.  However, his efforts so far have failed.  He should not be surprised, or disappointed; there was no way that he would be successful, given what he is facing in this effort.  The fact that so far the Arab side of the equation has not been more violent in its opposition should be considered surprising. 

Students of the philosophy of logic will no doubt remember that a map is only a representation of reality, and not reality itself.  This truth has special application here, as it appears that Mr. Bush’s “roadmap” contains many more obstacles and potholes than he expected, as well as a series of landslides and missing bridges in the roadway.  His tenacity so far leads one to wonder whether or not he understands why these obstacles exist.  Or perhaps the administration is suffering from poor information from the State Department.  In any event, there is one reason that, so far as I am aware, no one dealing with this issue has yet addressed.  It appears in the words of many people who have studied traditional Arab culture and understand it clearly.  Their view is simply that in order to achieve peace with an Arab you must deal from a position of strength.  Dictate terms, maintain your will and ability to enforce them, never give an inch, they say, and you will have peace.  It may be that you must maintain this resolve for centuries, but you will have peace.  If at some point you show any sign of weakness the peace will end.  Willingness to negotiate is generally considered a sign of weakness; a person who is strong has no need to make concessions to get something.  This view corresponds with another saying commonly heard among the English when they occupied various parts of the Middle East:  “You will find an Arab either under your heel or at your throat.” 

What President Bush’s roadmap does is treat the Palestinian Authority as an entity that can be negotiated with in the same manner as we would another “Western” nation.  It assumes that both sides want something and both are willing to give something up to get it.  Nothing could be simpler, except when one side believes that willingness to negotiate is a sign of fear, rather than of civilized behavior.  The increased level of violence, and the suicide attacks since the June 4, 2003 summit, demonstrate not only the rejection of negotiation as a means of solving problems.  They also demonstrate the rejection by various “Palestinian” groups of any peace process, whatsoever. 

On Sunday, June 15, as he left First Congregational Church in Kennebunkport, Maine, Mr. Bush stated to reporters, "The free world and those who love freedom and peace must deal harshly with Hamas and the killers.  That's just the way it is in the Middle East."  Perhaps, then, he is coming to understand the true situation which Israel faces, and has faced for over 50 years.  However, he appears to still be confident of eventual peace with a “Palestinian” state existing beside Israel.  

The roadmap plan was expected to immediately end Arab violence and to create a Palestinian state by 2005.  Israel attempted, once again and at the urging of the United States, to promote a peace initiative by making concessions.  The only time this achieved success was when the Camp David Accord ended the occupation of the Sinai Peninsula.  While Egypt has never abrogated the agreement, it cost Egyptian President Anwar Sadat his life.  No substantive Arab/Israeli agreements have ever followed.  Fear might be playing a significant role in this. 

For now, the United States seems wedded to the idea that President Bush’s plan is the only one, and that it must be implemented.  Probably any implementation will be over the dead bodies of many terrorists.  The level of support for violence against Israel in the region’s Arab population is unknown.  Some positive thinkers believe that the pro-violence faction is only a small minority.  Others, possibly better informed, believe that the level is much higher, with the least optimistic believing that it is a majority, and that Hamas and the other such groups have much wider support than our government is willing to believe.  Either way, it is very likely that if the road map goes through as planned, it may well be paved in part with the blood of those who do not wish peace to be achieved.  Any foreign troops brought in to enforce the plan must be prepared not only to keep the peace, but to defend themselves as well.  They will not be welcomed by the terrorist organizations. 

What is the true nature of the territory?  Most of us in the West do not really know.  We do not live there, do not have first hand knowledge of what the people in the region are dealing with, or why they believe and act as they do.  Those of us who know Israelis, and who understand that they are essentially western thinkers, understand why their reaction to terrorism is the same as ours.  We must not deny them their opportunities to react just as we did following September 11, 2001.  The leaders of one terrorist group should not be protected from retaliation just because it is not American soldiers who are doing the retaliating. We cannot believe that our map is an accurate description of the territory unless we have explored it foot by foot to determine the truth.  Idealist thinking may bring about great things, but only when all parties share the same ideals.  Right now the terrorist ideal is a horrendous one, which, it must be understood, does not coincide with the ideals of our President.  When Mr. Bush states, "The mission of the free world, those who care for peace, is to deny the people like Hamas the ability to destroy and to kill" he must also understand that by denying them that ability, he is denying them their reason for existing.  This single fact must be the centerpiece of American actions if there is to be any prospect of peace.

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