Monday, November 07, 2005

When I saw Bill Clinton being interviewed by Yonit Levy of Israel's Channel 2 I realized just how much we miss him these days. Sure, he was not a saint and he certainly did not choke on his first lie, as we say in Dutch, but he was able to give me and so many others here and elsewhere in the world some kind of feeling that he cared. While there many things that he should have taken care of but did not ( it appears that Islamist terror was not taken seriously enough, for instance ), he at least gave me the impression that he tried to do what he thought was necessary to bring peace, dignity and prosperity to as many people as possible. Today his legendary public personal warmth and his intellectual abilities are lacking, and while I am sure his administration - like the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority - bears partial responsibility for the failure of Oslo, the lack of commitment to and interest in solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict from the side of the current American government caused much more damage than Oslo ever did. One of the faces of Clinton's foreign policy was James Rubin. After leaving the Clinton administration Rubin started working for various media and now presents a news show at Sky News. On that network's website I just read the following column by him, which contains some very important - and very obvious - thruths. Most if it I have read elsewhere as well, but some things cannot be said and written enough. "There's probably no subject in international affairs that can get tempers flaring and voices shouting quicker than the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. To some, it is the cause of all the problems between America and the Islamic world. To others, it is proof that Islamic extremism is the fascism of the 21st Century. After hundreds of hours in negotiating sessions with people like Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Yasser Arafat and Saeb Erekat, I can't honestly say that I know any more than anyone else as to how to bring peace to the Middle East. But I have drawn a few conclusions: First, Jihadists don't fight for the Palestinians or speak for the Palestinians. Their movement is driven by a view that Arab regimes like Saudi Arabia and Egypt are illegitimate and controlled by Washington. Second, until the Palestinians truly accept the importance of the Holocaust in historical terms and in the psyche of Jews in Israel and around the world, Israel may pursue carefully calculated agreements but will never pursue a deep and permanent peace settlement. Third, until Israelis understand and empathise with the misery of the Palestinian people and their legitimate desire for freedom and what President Clinton has called "the quiet miracle of a normal life," Palestinian leaders will never be able to achieve the control of terrorist groups necessary for a two-state solution. And finally, nearly every observer knows what the final outcome is. As Barak told me on Friday: the final agreement will differ only in tiny details from the one that President Clinton offered, Barak accepted and Arafat turned down. The destination is well known. The only question is how long it takes to get there." James P. Rubin

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