The President sees a future of “two states for two peoples.” Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has embraced this vision. It is now up to the Palestinians and the Arab states at war with Israel to do the same.
To make progress toward a lasting peace, Israel cannot be expected to take concrete steps on the ground in exchange only for declarations from the Palestinians. There must be substance for substance.
Israel has already started backing up its commitments with actions to build confidence and bolster the new Palestinian government. To begin meeting its obligations under the first phase of the road map, Israel is allowing Palestinian workers from the territories to enter Israel, withdrawing from cities in the Palestinian Authority where Palestinian security forces exert control, dismantling illegal outposts, releasing prisoners, lifting the general closure on the territories, and increasing the transfer of goods.
The Palestinian declaration of a cease-fire is a first step, but not a substitute for a permanent cessation of violence. As President Bush said, there must be “true peace, not just a pause between more wars and intifadas.”
Terrorism is the obstacle to peace. The Palestinian Authority must take specific measures to end the violence, including ending incitement, confiscating illegal weapons, and arresting terrorists. It is not acceptable that acknowledged terrorists, who proudly claim credit for suicide bombings, are allowed to remain free to plot acts of terror to sabotage the peace process. The leaders of terrorist groups must be jailed.
Peace in Northern Ireland has been impeded by the reluctance to disarm terrorists. We cannot allow a similar unwillingness by the Palestinian Authority to take away the guns to disrupt this opportunity to peace. As President Bush has said, the Palestinians must disarm and dismantle terrorists and terrorist infrastructure.
The Arab states have a critical role to play. As President Bush has said, they must end their support of terror. They must strengthen Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas so he has the authority to make decisions on behalf of the Palestinians. Finally, they must be active participants in the peace process, which is possible only if they recognize Israel, end their hostile rhetoric toward Israel, and support a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli dispute.
While we focus on short-term steps to advance the peace process, we must not overlook changes needed to insure a future of coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians. This means the education system in the Palestinian Authority must be overhauled to replace textbooks that disparage Israel, deny the Jewish connection to the region, and fail to include Israel on their maps.
Israel is taking risky measures in the interest of making the road map a success. Israel’s citizens will be at greater risk as its forces redeploy. Should the Palestinians fail to live up to their commitment to end terrorism, Israel cannot be expected to watch its men, women, and children murdered with impunity; it will have to defend its citizens.
Today is the start of a long road and many obstacles remain. Nevertheless, Israel is willing to discuss all the tough issues, including settlements, Jerusalem, refugees (Jewish and Palestinian), and borders at the appropriate time.
Whenever an Arab leader has made a commitment to peace, Israel has made difficult compromises for peace. If Mahmoud Abbas shows the courage of Anwar Sadat and King Hussein, Israel will respond in a way that will allow Israelis and Palestinians to live together in peace.