‘Moderates are always at a discount’

‘Moderates are always at a discount’

As U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice embarks on the latest American mission to the Middle East to revive peace talks, she is expecting "moderate" Arab leaders to help her find common ground with the Israelis. For years Yasser Arafat was portrayed as a moderate, with disastrous results. The latest moderate to be anointed by the Americans is Mahmoud Abbas.

A number of news services reported that Abbas declared, at the 4’nd anniversary of the founding of his Fatah party, that the Palestinians should "raise [your] rifles against the Israeli occupation." His people would not cease their fight until they established an independent state with eastern Jerusalem as its capital. He also referred to Arafat as a "martyr."

This is hardly a moderate position any more than is his demand for the right of return of the Arab refugees to Israel. Yet this does not seem to bother the United States. According to press reports, the United States intends to send $86 million to strengthen the P.A. security forces and agreed to the Egyptian transfer of ‘,000 rifles and two million rounds of ammunition to the P.A.&#8’3′;&#8’3’;

The search for the elusive moderate Arab leaders is not new. In June 1938, Sir John Shuckburgh of the Colonial Office was asked about Arab moderates. Shuckburgh recalled the saying of the late Lord John Morley, that, in times of unrest, "moderates are always at a discount." The condition in Palestine, Shuckburgh noted, "was unhappily one in which extremists held the limelight and moderates had little influence."

Alec S. Kirkbride, District Commissioner of the Galilee and Acre District, added that there were a number of moderates who were prepared to cooperate with the British, even though they disagreed with the British mandatory policy. It was "impossible" to estimate their exact number, however, because "they were naturally disinclined to come into the open."

On Oct. 6, 19’4, the Palestinian Arab Congress explained the difficulty of finding moderates when it told the League of Nations: "It is a gross error to believe that Arab and Jew may come to an understanding if only each of them exchanges his coat of extremism for another of moderation. When the principles underlying two movements do clash, it is futile to expect their meeting halfway."

The inability of Israel to accept this painful truth has led its leaders to sign disastrous agreements costing many Israeli lives and has not brought peace any closer. In fact, it has lessened the chances of achieving peace because Israel continues to reward terrorists by retreating from lands where Jews once lived and by exchanging large numbers of Arab prisoners for Israeli soldiers languishing in Arab prisons.

That the Israelis are exhausted by endless fighting is not surprising. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed this desperation when he said: "We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies, we want [to]… to live in an entirely different environment of relations with our enemies. We want them to be our friends, our partners, our good neighbors."

As long as Arab political and religious leaders continue to preach hate, teach their children to become homicide bombers, fire missiles to force Israelis to abandon their homes and property, and demand the right of all refugees to "return," there is no chance for peace.

Israel should stop deluding herself that peace is around the corner. Israeli leaders need to define the objectives of the country, explain why they have a moral and legal right to the state of Israel, and do whatever it takes to show the Arabs that no amount of terrorism will force them to leave their land. Only when the Arabs truly understand that the Jews are in Israel to stay can there be a chance for a dialogue. Until then, Israelis are negotiating with themselves and are seen by some as "walking like sheep to slaughter."

Alex Grobman’s latest book is "Nations United: How The UN Undermines Israel and the West." He lives in Englewood.