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memri
June 30, 2002 No.
395

'A Real Hope for Israel and for 280 Million Arabs' An Israeli Expert Reacts to President Bush's Speech

In an article published in the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot, Dr. Guy Bechor - a left-leaning Israeli expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - commented on Bush's speech, and regarded it as a path-breaking policy formula for the Middle East. Following are excerpts from Bechor's article:[1]

"[President] George Bush's speech could break the poisoned stalemate that has existed in the Middle East for several decades. For the first time, a rhetorical ground for dynamic change in the region was constructed - between the 'axis of evil,' which mainly includes Iran and Iraq, and the democratic states in the West. A new frontier of regimes-under-warning has emerged, and this frontier includes nearly all of the Arab regimes."

Fifty Years of No Accountability
"Over the past 50 years, the Arab regimes have not really paid for their actions, mainly due to the automatic support they got from the USSR, because of their blackmail of Europe, and the consequent stalemate."

"The USSR passed away over a decade ago, but the traditional stalemate continues. In the meantime, although we had Madrid, Oslo, and peace with Jordan, the Arab regimes and the societies within them have remained hostile to Israel and defiant towards the West. [But after Bush's speech -] No more."

"From now on with every day that passes by, the Arab regimes will be examined anew whether they prefer to join the 'axis of evil' or to open up to the world. The world's leader will treat them accordingly. Thus, the stalemate in the region is broken and genuine hope for change is given, both to Israel and to 280 million Arab citizens."

A Model for a New Arab Regime
"Bush's speech calls for the construction of a laboratory model of a new, democratic and pluralistic Arab regime. This includes [a demand for] normalization of relations with Israel, the cessation of incitement in the media, public condemnations of suicide [bombings], and the termination of financial support of the Intifada and the violence. These are not empty demands: an Arab state which will not abide by these will be categorized with the countries of evil."

"'The future Palestinian state', says Bush, 'cannot be a terror state that is like a fist stuck in Israel's stomach.' [A future Palestinian state could not be a terrorist state] since it will not be established so long as the Palestinian leaders support terror. On the one hand, the hoped-for Palestinian democracy (which is possible if Arafat is removed) could be an example for the rest of the regimes and societies in the Arab world, at least in the Middle East."

"These statements undermine the Arab regimes. However, they have brought it upon themselves. Professor Edward Said commented that the Middle East is the only place in the world where there is not even a hint of democracy, in a world which defines itself by the norms of human rights and democracy."

A Macro-Agenda for Security and Prosperity in the Entire Middle East
"Contrary to the claim that Bush's speech does not create a clear mechanism for a settlement, [in fact] it actually decrees a decisive mechanism of reward and punishment, which would also allow regional political and social processes to commence and mature. This is not a micro plan similar to those of [George] Mitchell and [George] Tenet. This is a macro agenda for the security and success of the entire Middle East and it is an unprecedented guarantee for Israel and its prosperity."

"From now on, there is hope that in the future we will witness a shift in the position of Arab states, due to a lack of a better alternative [for them to choose from]. States which will not begin to move in the direction of Israel and the West, or will not cease support for terror will be liable for their own punishment."

"The Saudi initiative, by the way, could be viewed in this light: Immediately following September 11, the shrewd Saudis understood that they are loosing their legitimacy in the eyes of the U.S., and [hence] attempted to construct a new basis for it."

"Similarly to her (U.S.) role in the 'conference of evil' in Durbin (South Africa) - the United States emerges as the lone lighthouse of justice, fairness, and truth, a country which never hesitates to confront the entire world in a time of need. The European states, as usual, stutter. However, eventually, they, just like the Arab regimes, will accept the new path that the U.S. is showing all of us."


[1] Yediot Ahronot, June 27, 2002