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America Beware of Helping This 'Peace' : Mideast: Arab extremism will erupt if Israel cedes control. Will U.S. have to intervene?

September 10, 1993|AVI WEISS | Rabbi Avi Weiss is national president of Amcha--the Coalition for Jewish Concerns, and senior rabbi of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, N.Y.

The "Gaza-Jericho first" agreement between Israel and the PLO is moving rapidly toward a conclusion with virtually no input from those who have a stake in it. The Israeli electorate has not yet spoken, nor have Diaspora Jews. Some argue that Israel's security decisions should be made solely by Israelis, but the very survival of the Jewish homeland is of concern to Jews everywhere, and to the United States, which has long been Israel's mainstay.

Extreme Islamic fundamentalism is on the rise throughout the Middle East. It threatens to topple the Egyptian government; it wreaks havoc in Lebanon and poses a serious danger to King Hussein of Jordan. The Judea and Samaria area (the West Bank) is one of the few places where fundamentalism has been contained, solely because Israeli forces control the area.

Once Israel withdraws from Gaza and Jericho--and shortly afterward from all West Bank cities--Palestinian civil war will break out. Already, PLO backers battle daily with other Palestinian and Muslim extremists. Indeed, on Sept. 3, PLO gunmen in Gaza opened fire on rivals from the Palestinian Front merely because they were painting graffiti opposing the plan.

This is nothing compared to what will happen once the pullback is completed. Recall the tragedy in 1982 when Israeli forces withdrew from the Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps in Beirut: Christian forces entered and massacred 400 Palestinians. This time, however, it will be Palestinians facing off against Palestinians. "It is a terrible prospect," an Israeli negotiator was reported by Reuters to have said of the redeployment of Israeli forces. "There are wild people out there. All of a sudden, you can have . . . a Sabra and Chatilla happening." Even with Israel securing the area and banning firearms, almost 1,000 Palestinians have been killed by other Palestinians. Imagine the scenario once they are armed and allowed free rein.

The result will be the Lebanization of Judea and Samaria. Islamic extremists living there now enjoy great support. Their ranks will be swelled by many extremists among the 800,000 Palestinians living abroad who will return. These extremists are vengeful, viewing Israel as having driven them out in 1948 and 1967, and despising the Arab countries where they have been treated as second-class citizens for years. They do not view the Palestine Liberation Organization as representing them, and they intend to gain the upper hand through the ballot or (more probably) the bullet. In turn, they will present a mortal threat to Israel, which they have vowed to destroy, and Jordan, whose government they view as traitorous.

As the extremists achieve success in Judea and Samaria, they will turn their attention here. Islamic fundamentalists view the West--particularly the United States--as their enemy for supporting not only Israel, but secular Arab governments as well. As we have seen in the World Trade Center bombing, terrorist attacks have already been launched on U.S. soil.

There is another danger: Israeli-Syrian talks about the possibility of Israel pulling back from the Golan Heights, and, similarly, the Gaza-Jericho agreement, raise the specter of U.S. troops being stationed as a buffer in areas vacated by Israel. This would have devastating consequences. Think back to the 281 U.S. servicemen killed in the 1983 attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut. The horror will be repeated, as U.S. troops will again be targets of extremists. Moreover, American Jews will then be vulnerable to accusations that U.S. servicemen died for Israel.

Thus, regardless of whether Diaspora Jews believe they should become involved in debate affecting the security of Israel, American Jews have the obligation to declare that the "Gaza-Jericho first" agreement is not in our country's best interests.

America beware.

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