Jerusalem Summit Aims to Alter Ideas on Middle East Peace

Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:14pm EDT
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Jerusalem ( - President Bush's 'road map' to an Israeli-Palestinian peace is just as dead as the many other peace plans the U.S. has sponsored over the last decade -- primarily because it was based on the wrong values, Israeli and American conservatives said this week.

Gathered in Jerusalem for a first of its kind summit, about 50 international political, academic and media leaders suggested that there can be no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict unless the fundamentalist Islam behind most terrorism in the world is addressed and underlying attitudes toward the Israeli-Palestinian peace process are radically changed.

Following a Wednesday's bomb attack against a U.S. diplomatic convoy in the Gaza Strip, which left three Americans dead and a fourth wounded, Secretary of State Colin Powell said that the U.S. would continue in its current approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"We will not be deterred...from pursuing the road map or trying to bring peace to the region," Powell said in an interview with the BBC.

The so-called "road map" -- like many plans before it -- is based on the principle of Israel giving up land held under its authority in exchange for peace. The road map also calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by the end of 2005.

But participants at the three-day Jerusalem summit said that following the same path would produce only failure- not peace.

"All the diplomacy about which we debate [the road map, the 1993 Oslo Accords, a new Geneva initiative], all of that diplomacy is based on the surface when the heart of the problem we face is deep beneath the surface," said Richard Perle, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in Washington.

Perle, a leading U.S. strategist, said that "a stable, reliable peace" could not be achieved "until some fundamental, underlying attitudes are changed, until schoolchildren under the authority of the Palestinians are no longer taught that it is right to kill."

U.S. Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kansas), who joined the conference through a live satellite feed, said the problem with the peace process is "we're stuck in this mode of talking about a land-for-peace deal."

"The peace isn't forthcoming or it can be turned like a thermostat, it can be turned hot or cold," Brownback said.

"I don't think it's the right way to go. I think what we should do is back up and... start to deal with some of the bigger issues at the very outset," he said. "I would start and put it out on the table - Jerusalem. It should be resolved that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel."

The U.S. and most countries of the world have never recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which considers the city its indivisible, eternal capital. The Palestinians want to see the city divided, so that eastern Jerusalem, including the Old City, would be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum and board member of the U.S. Institute of Peace, said the Oslo Accords and the road map collapsed because they were based on the false assumption that the Palestinians had already accepted the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East.

"We have assumed... that the Palestinians have accepted the existence of the Israeli state, of the Jewish state and therefore diplomacy has been directed toward settling the outstanding issues concerning borders, armaments, resources...all premised on the idea that the hard work has already been done," Pipes said.

"That is a mistake. There is abundant evidence to suggest the fact that the Palestinians have not accepted... [Israel] and that in fact is the work that lies ahead - to gain that Palestinian acceptance of Israel," he said.

Palestinian schoolbooks and rhetoric must be changed and the Palestinians must admit that they have "lost the war," Pipes said. "There can be no diplomacy until there is what I call a Palestinian change of heart."

Simply exchanging one Palestinian Authority prime minister for another "is not a creative way of seeing things," Israeli Tourism Minister Benny Elon said in reference to the idea that a strong PA prime minister could stop terrorism and make peace with Israel.

"I believe that the government [of Israel] has to declare after 10 years of Oslo...that the Palestinian Authority is not a partner any more," Elon said. "We have a war against the Palestinian Authority."

The Oslo Accords, signed on the White House lawn between Israel and the PLO in 1993, created the PA as an entity for negotiations and to which Israel would turn over land.

"Jordan can be the partner like they were the representatives of the Palestinian issue until 1988. And I don't think that [Oslo is] irreversible," Elon said.

Elon recently published a revitalized plan of his own, which had been discussed years ago, which envisions Jordan as a Palestinian state and all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as part of Israel.

No peace until terrorism ends

But Israeli Minister Uzi Landau, responsible for overseeing U.S.-Israeli strategic dialogue in the Prime Minister's office, said there can be no peace until terrorism is uprooted.

According to Landau, the Jews must build an "iron wall of strength" behind which they can build their state. Beyond Israel's borders, the "free world" must build a "shield of freedom," he said.

Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas said many of his colleagues were guilty of not telling or of distorting Israel's historical, political, moral and religious story.

"I try to tell the story of Israel, the only democracy in the sea of dictatorships that reflects the moral and political and cultural values of the United States and much of the rest of the free world," Thomas said.

That free world has become freer in the last two decades because it stood against communism, but there is a greater threat now, he said.

"I believe there is an equal or even greater threat now to freedom around the world. It is radical, unrepentant, unforgiving and even... evangelical Islam. It must be dealt with. It must be defeated," he said.

Dmitry Radyshevsky, executive director of the Michael Cherney Foundation, which funded the summit, said the conference was only a "first step" in an international forum to formulate a joint strategy for confronting "twin dangers" that face Western civilization.

Those dangers, he said, are "totalitarianism from the east, represented by radical Islam, and moral relativism of the West, which erodes our resolve to fight that evil and erodes moral clarity in our understanding of that evil."

Radyshevsky believes that the free world must unite to defend and fortify Israel and make Jerusalem the center of a coalition that would confront totalitarianism and bring moral clarity, replacing the United Nations, which has failed in that task.
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