Conservatives Reject Suggestion That They Lack Common Sense

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:13 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Those who think they can negotiate with terrorists are the ones who lack "common sense," according to a conservative Washington analyst.

Frank Gaffney, president of the Washington-based Center for Security Policy, is among those who oppose President Bush's "road map" to peace in the Middle East. Many conservatives, American Jewish groups, Christians, and others have been vocal in expressing their opposition to the road map.

Last week - in comments that were not intended for publication - William Burns, the U.S. Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, reportedly downplayed conservatives' and Christians' influence on President Bush when it comes to the road map.

When pressed by a left-wing Knesset member on how serious Bush was about implementing the "road map," Burns reportedly assured the meeting's participants that Bush was committed to the plan.

"The common sense of all peoples will override the conservative and Christian viewpoints once they see the road map's potential," Burns supposedly said at the "secret" meeting of Israeli leftists, peace activists and some Palestinian officials. His comments were contained in the minutes of a meeting released by Peace Now, an Israeli nongovernmental organization.

The only response from the U.S. consulate has been to say that the meeting was not to have been publicized.

"I pride myself in having a fair dose of common sense," Gaffney said in response to Burns' reported comments.

"Far from the people who think that...negotiating with terrorists can bring about a just and durable and genuine peace, it is that group that is lacking in common sense," Gaffney said in a telephone interview.

"The 'road map' is a serious mistake, not least because it departs from the key principles laid out by President Bush in his June 24 speech last year," Gaffney said.

"Specifically there was to be in that vision of peace...a cessation of terrorism, a wholly new [Palestinian] leadership and the creation of [Palestinian] democratic institutions," he said.

The so-called "road map" was to have been based on the President's speech but in the end it was written not only by the U.S., but with the help of the European Union, Russia and United Nations.

According to Gaffney, although the framers say they are implementing President Bush's vision, the fact that it recognizes a provisional Palestinian state by the end of this year - regardless of whether the terrorism stops and regardless of whether democratic institutions and leadership are in place - dooms it to failure.

Where it would succeed is in compelling Israel to surrender interests vital to its security, which could translate into the next war," Gaffney said.

"I think that the key question really is [that the] president's vision [is] being hijacked, to say nothing of Israel [being] put in a position very different if not antithetical to what [the President] had in mind, he said.

He predicted that if the U.S. pressures Israel on the road map it would create a rift in U.S.-Israeli relations, and he called on Washington to abandon "the pretense that the road map is implementing the president's vision."

The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, which described itself as neither Christian, conservative, nor part of AIPAC (the largest pro-Israel lobby in Washington), said it was nonetheless disturbed by Burns' comments and the fact that the meeting took place.

"An American diplomat visits a foreign country...has a meeting with groups opposed to the policies of their own democratically-elected government, which has ties to our own government," JINSA wrote in an commentary on the incident.

"The meeting includes ministers of a third entity, non-democratic, also opposed to the policies of [the American government] and given to virulent criticism of American government officials including the president, but seeking American largesse. The
American diplomat reportedly joins in the denigration of the American groups in front of both foreign groups...

"The American response? The meeting was supposed to be 'off the record,'" JINSA said.

"We think everyone should know, particularly the White House, that an American official is actively undermining Prime Minister Sharon, the landslide winner of the last election, by encouraging the landslide losers.

"We think everyone should know that Mr. Burns thinks the views of American conservatives and Christians will be overridden by people with 'common sense,' implying that two of the strongest groups of supporters of both Israel and President Bush have none.

"We are not Christian, or conservative or AIPAC. We are, however, supporters of the democratically elected government of Israel. We are supportive of President Bush's call for Palestinian reform and recognition of Israel. We are skeptics of the Ministers and officials of the PA, who were not in this meeting to enhance the prospects of legitimacy or security for the State of Israel. And as such, we are offended by Mr. Burns's behavior, not least by his apparent belief that his behavior matters less if it remains 'off the record,'" the group said.

In Jerusalem, a spokesman for a Christian Zionist ministry, who asked that he and his organization not to be identified, said he had no doubt that Burns had made the comments attributed to him and that they were not taken out of context.

"Common sense would dictate that this road map be scrapped because it's worse than Oslo," he said, in reference to the 1993 Israeli-PLO peace accords. Those accords collapsed completely several months after the Palestinian intifadah began in September 2000.

Certain lessons of Oslo were not learned, he said. "Deadlines can be deadly to Israel and they have no reason to trust their fate to outside monitors or anyone inside the PLO."

As part of the Oslo Accords, the PA was allowed to build a police force - which turned out to be a small army. Many of those in that police force have taken part in terrorist actions against Israel, critics say. The international community is undertaking to train the new PA security forces.

Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, have serious reservations about the "road map," which calls for the establishment of a provisional Palestinian state by the end of this year, whether or not there is an end to terrorism.

Sharon is due in Washington early next week to discuss the plan with President Bush.