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President’s Mideast Performance Disappoints

Published in The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle

I was in Israel during President Clinton’s recent visit to the region, and I was offended by the president’s attempt to appease and praise Yasser Arafat – the most notorious terrorist in recent times — while at the same time distancing himself from the elected leader of the only democracy in the Middle East, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Even if President Clinton decided to forget and forgive Arafat’s responsibility for the murders of many Americans, it was still offensive for the leader of the free world to visit the Palestinian Authority territories, where it is well known that human rights violations are common and severe.

It was disappointing to see President Clinton in Gaza applauding and nodding in approval when Arafat, during his speech, described the enforcement of the rule of law and the separation of powers in the Palestinian Authority territories, knowing full well that, in reality, Arafat has been obstructing the democratic process in favor of his one-man rule.

During the past five years of self rule, Arafat, with his Palestinian security guards, has been responsible for systematically squelching freedom of expression, freedom of the press and the independence of the judiciary, which are the key building blocks of any civilized society. Reports of human rights monitoring groups described the arrests and torture of political dissidents while corruption is prevalent in Arafat’s ruling elite.

It was surprising when President Clinton, the chief law enforcement officer of America’s democratic institutions hailed the showing of hands by the Palestinian VIPs at the Gaza convention center as a valid rejection of the passages of the PLO charter calling for the destruction of Israel. Article 33 of the PLO charter states that “this charter shall not be amended save by vote of a majority of two-thirds of the total membership of the National Congress of the PLO taken at a special session convened for the purpose.” Since only 456 of the 727 members of the counsel were present, the counsel was 29 members short of the required two-thirds necessary to take any action of this kind. In addition, no official count of the vote was carried out, no official session of the PNC was called for this purpose, and no specific clauses were annulled. Instead, the unidentified participants merely raised their hands and cheered when Arafat asked “I turn to you, to all of you to support the letter I sent to Clinton and to recognize the decisions that we have made for the peace. Will you raise your hands to do so?”

Pain and virtue

Many American Jews seem to believe that Clinton is good for the Jews and that he has been the best friend of Israel of any American president. But his Gaza visit should alert them that the Clinton administration has decided to equate its relationship with the Palestinians to the special alliance that it has traditionally had with Israel.

It was offensive to many Israelis when President Clinton equated the suffering of children of imprisoned Palestinian terrorists, who murdered many Israelis, with that of the children of Israeli victims of terror, stating that both children brought tears to his eyes. I wonder, as many Israelis do, if Clinton would dare to say the same thing about the children of the World Trade Center bombers. Clinton should have known that not all tears are equal.

Clinton met four Palestinian girls whose fathers are imprisoned in Israel for life for murdering Israeli civilians and promised them that he will pursue the case for releasing their fathers with the Israeli government, telling them that their fathers would be proud of them. As an attorney, I wonder if now the president has the intention on behalf of all children, to pursue the release of their murderous parents.

It was especially hurtful to hear our closest ally state that Israelis and Palestinians “must acknowledge that neither side has a monopoly on pain or virtue.” As an Israeli, I can only remember the pain and fear of 30 years of terrorism committed by the PLO against Israelis and Jews. I can remember the murder of the Israeli athletes in Munich, and the murder of Israeli school children in

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Maalot. It is impossible to forget the last five years and the constant daily threat of suicide bombings and other attacks aimed at children, women and other civilians.

Finally, it was ironic to see Clinton and his family standing side by side with Arafat in Bethlehem as a children’s choir sang “Joy to The World,” when Clinton knows full well that Bethlehem’s Christian population has been subjected to relentless persecution by Palestinian forces and many have left the city.

Risky business

It seems that President Clinton and his aides have decided to establish a Palestinian state in the Middle East with total disregard of the Israeli government’s wishes and concerns and to strength it’s relationship with the Palestinians at the expense of the Israelis. For the first time in his administration, the president, in his Gaza speech, adopted the language of the Camp David Accords, calling for the legitimate rights for the Palestinian people – a code word for Palestinians statehood – adding that the Palestinians “now have a chance to determine their own destiny on their own land.”

It is sad that the administration is willing to risk establishing a Palestinian state in the heart of Israel, knowing full well that its regime would be similar to the totalitarian regimes of Iraq, Libya and Syria, endangering Israeli security and American interests. However, it is even scarier that the Clinton administration believes that patronizing such a state would give them a pro-American Arab ally in the Middle East and renew U.S. prestige in the Arab world. However, recent demonstrations against Clinton and the U.S. by Palestinians sympathizing with Saddam Hussein should remind the U.S. government of the true character of their so-called new friend.

During a toast in Israel, the president said that during the mid-1980s his former pastor told him that he might be president some day and would make mistakes, but G-d would forgive him, except if he forgets the state of Israel. I believe President Clinton has forgotten the state of Israel in his Gaza visit, and I believe that American Jews have forgotten the state of Israel during the last five years.

Published in The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle

Shoula Romano Horing is a Kansas City, Mo., attorney and the host of “Oh, Jerusalem,” a radio program heard from 4 to 5 p.m. each Sunday on KCXL-AM 1140 in Liberty, Mo.