DAWN - Opinion; April 23, 2002

Published April 23, 2002

Will aid flow to Pakistan?

By Shahid Javed Burki

WILL official development assistance from the West and Japan — commonly referred to as foreign aid — begin to flow to Pakistan once again? With President George W. Bush’s global war on terrorism in full swing and with Pakistan having signalled its willingness to become an active participant in this effort, significant amounts of aid has begun to arrive in Pakistan.

In the American fiscal year 2002 which will end on September 30, Pakistan will probably be the third or the fourth largest recipient of American foreign aid after Israel, Egypt and Colombia. Will it continue to be a member of this league of favoured nations? What is common between Colombia, Egypt, Israel and Pakistan? In all four countries the United States has strong strategic interests. Israel is America’s most cherished ally, even closer to Washington than the UK. Neutralizing Egypt in the growing Arab hostility towards Israel helps American interests in the Middle East. Some 85 per cent of the hard drugs consumed in the cities of the United States originate in Colombia.

There is a low-level civil war going on in Colombia which makes the task of controlling the flow of drugs through a variety of channels into America — a difficult job even at the best of times — much more difficult. Washington now has a large economic and military aid programme in Colombia to steady the situation in that country so that the war against drugs can be fought earnestly and with greater resolve.

And Pakistan? When Islamabad quickly switched sides from being a supporter of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan to a partner of the United States in its war against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, it was quickly rewarded with significant amounts of economic aid. Hundreds of millions of dollars of cash were provided to help Pakistan improve its chronically difficult budgetary situation.

The United States promised to write off large amounts of debt owed to it by Pakistan. Washington’s friends in the Paris Club — a group of western nations and Japan who have aid programmes in the developing world — followed its lead and also eased Pakistan’s large burden of debt. The European Union eased Pakistan’s access to its markets by reducing tariffs on a number of products and granting Pakistani exporters with larger quotas. The European trade policy is made by bureaucrats in Brussels and is protected from the interests of lobbyists campaigning for the promotion of the interest of their clients.

The European Union apparatus in Brussels, therefore, is able to act quickly on most trade issues. The situation is different in the United States. There, trade policy formulation is ultimately in the hands of the members of the Congress. However, even in the highly politicized environment in which trade policy is made in Washington, Pakistan managed to receive some small favours.

Given what has happened over the last seven months — in the period after the terrorists’ attack on America — the question I have asked in the title of this article is easy to answer. Official development assistance will continue to flow from the United States for as long as Pakistan holds on to its newly acquired status of a strategic partner in Washington’s war against global terrorism. For a few months after the United States began the bombing of Afghanistan, it appeared that this war would be brought to a quick conclusion.

The Taliban regime crumbled much more rapidly than anybody had anticipated. The Northern Alliance walked into Kabul without resistance. A fractious Afghan polity was able to hammer out an agreement that placed Hamid Karzai at the head of an interim Afghan government. Karzai, adorned in a green Afghan cape with a karakuli cap on his head, toured the world drumming support for his fledgling regime. He became not only the toast of western capitals but was also adopted as a model by the fashion industry. President Bush invited him to be in the visitors’ gallery when he delivered his “axis of evil” speech to the U.S. Congress. Had the situation continued to unfold along these happy lines, the United States, its protestations notwithstanding, would have begun to lose interest in Afghanistan and the countries that surround it.

That did not happen. Five months after the US had begun its military campaign in Afghanistan, things began to go wrong. It was discovered that the Al-Qaeda still had the capability to regroup its forces and mount attacks on the American troops in Afghanistan. An Afghan minister was murdered at the Kabul airport as he was preparing to leave for New Delhi.

The Afghan warlords began to reassert themselves and challenge the authority of Karzai’s government in Kabul. The planned return of exiled King Zahir Shah to Kabul was postponed several times. There was an attempt on the life of another Afghan minister, this one of considerably greater stature than the minister assassinated earlier. But that was not all. By the end of March 2002, it became apparent that there was still some life left in Al-Qaeda, some of it in Pakistan.

Pakistani intelligence agencies working with America’s CIA and FBI discovered that some powerful figures belonging to the Al-Qaeda network had begun to reassemble in central Punjab, the heart of Pakistan. A raid on a house in Faiselabad resulted in the capture of Abu Zubaydah, the third ranking Al-Qaeda leader after Osama bin Laden and Ajman al-Zawahiri. It was clear that some remnants of Al-Qaeda had managed to penetrate parts of Pakistan that had been previously spared their presence.

A New York Times account of the shoot-out in Faisalabad described Pakistan’s third largest city with a population of more than three million, as a city that could “lay claim to being the most anonymous of the country’s most major urban areas. It has never had the sort of turbulent reputation that attaches to Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar, cities that have been factories of Islamic extremism.”

But the fact that such a high ranking Al-Qaeda operative had found his way into Pakistan’s economic heart was troubling. “From what is known about the Faisalabad raid and similar raids in the neighbouring city of Lahore that netted suspects, there appears to be a new dimension to the hunt for Taliban and Al-Qaeda figures: the possibility that other fugitives too have disappeared deep into the teeming cities of this nation of 140 million people.”

By March 2002, it was obvious the war on global terrorism was not going well and that Pakistan was not about to lose its frontline position in this effort. History seemed to be repeating itself. As had happened in the 1980s when the war against the Soviet Union occupation of Afghanistan dragged on for a decade, it appeared that America will have to remain engaged in this part of the world for several more years. It was also becoming clear to America that Pakistan’s support was critical for this effort. As such Islamabad would retain its strategic importance for the United States and would continue, therefore, to be an important destination for American economic aid.

But is that the right course to follow? Should we depend on our strategic location to obtain concessional flows of funds as we have done several times in the past? Or should we take advantage of the renewed commitment made at Monterrey by the donor community to provide help to the developing world? If we choose the latter option we will have to set our own economic house in order. What does that imply?

The answer to this question is supplied at some length in the document titled The Monterrey Consensus issued after the conclusion of the international meeting on development finance. What does the document say? A close reading of the Monterrey proposal reveals an approach that has four components. The first one deals with the need for deep and sustained reform in the countries that want the rich world to be engaged in their development.

“In our common pursuit of growth, poverty eradication and sustainable development, a critical challenge is to ensure the necessary internal conditions for mobilizing domestic savings, both public and private, sustaining adequate levels of productive investment and increasing human capacity.” It is only those countries willing to go for deep and sustained reform that will win favours from the members of the donor community. The donors are no longer willing to spread their largesse broadly.

Instead, they will be much more selective in their approach. For the countries not measuring up to donors expectations, the amounts of aid given will be very modest. This approach, labelled “selectivity,” was advocated by the World Bank but was enthusiastically adopted by the entire donor community.

The second element in the Monterrey approach picks up on the themes that such multilateral institutions as the IMF and the World Bank have pursued in the past. The Monterrey signatories state that “a crucial task is to enhance the efficacy, coherence and consistency of macro-economic policies. An enabling domestic environment is vital for mobilizing domestic resources, increasing productivity, reducing capital flight, encouraging the private sector, and attracting and making effective use of international investment and assistance.”

The third element in the Monterrey plan is institutional development aimed at a variety of objectives. “Good governance is essential for sustainable development,” said the governments attending the Monterrey Conference. However, sound macro-economic policies, while a necessary condition for accelerating growth and alleviating poverty, don’t go far enough. For results to be produced governments will have to do a good deal more.

They will need to establish “sound democratic institutions responsive to the needs of the people and improved infrastructure [since they] are the basis for sustained economic growth, poverty eradication and employment creation. Freedom, peace and security, domestic stability, respect for human rights, including the right to development, and the rule of law, gender equality, market-oriented policies, and an overall commitment to just and democratic societies are also essential and mutually reinforcing.”

While Pakistan has satisfied the donor community by bringing its macro-economic policies in line with their expectations, it is the institutional dimension of the reform where a great deal of progress needs to be made. It is only with freedom, peace, security, the rule of law and gender equality that sustainable development will return.

No amount of foreign aid will produce these developments. It will require the development of a consensus among the countries’ many factions and components to make meaningful progress in these areas. Once that happened, greater aid will flow as promised at Monterrey. Aid will come not because of our strategic position in the war against global terrorism. It will flow because of the rationality and promise of our policies. That is the way it should be.

The fourth element in the Monterrey approach comes in the form of an advice to the developing world. It is suggested that foreign assistance can be relied upon only at the initial phases of development. Ultimately it is only foreign direct investment that will usher in the developing world as important components of the global economy. For those countries able to make the transition from ODA to FDI, sustainable development is possible. For all others, economic growth beyond modest increases in GDP will be at the mercy of donor whims and strategic interests.

Breach of oath by nazims

By Sajjad Ali Shah

THE Nazims and Naib Nazims recently elected to the local bodies are in deep trouble, particularly those who are associated with political parties opposed to the idea of referendum and who are not responding to the call of active assistance in the campaign.

They have to face the wrath of the president at news conferences and are warned of serious consequences if they break their oath and indulge in party politics. The federal law minister has also warned that this is a very serious matter and the cases of such Nazims and Naib Nazims would be referred to special tribunals for disqualification as according to their oath, they cannot indulge in party politics.

It is clear that if they support the referendum and bring people to the public meetings in the vehicles arranged by them, it would not be politics and would not be a breach of the oath. But if they do not support the referendum, they would be guilty of a serious offence and can be disqualified.

The logic advanced by the government is incomprehensible and self-defeating. The Nazims and Naib Nazims are representatives of the people elected by them to be part of an infrastructure of a new political system in which power is intended to be transferred from the bureaucrats to the people at the grass-root level, as claimed by the National Reconstruction Bureau.

The view taken by the government certainly indicates that support is being sought almost forcibly without giving any choice to the elected representatives of the people, and if it is so permitted by the law, then that law is bad and can be challenged in the court on the ground of being discriminatory. Even otherwise, the elections of the Nazims, Naib Nazims and Councillors held by the federal government through the Election Commission of Pakistan are violative of the Constitution, which allows such elections within the electoral laws of the provinces and militates against provincial autonomy. Petitions to this effect are pending in the courts.

On the subject of elections to the local bodies, Sindh government has promulgated the Sindh Local Government Ordinance 2001. But this provincial Ordinance cannot amend the Constitution, which has fixed the jurisdiction of the Election Commission of Pakistan in holding elections to the parliament and provincial assemblies only. If the Constitution has been amended under the authority of a judgment of the Supreme Court, then such constitutional amendments should be made public so that legal remedies may be pressed into service by the people who wish to do so.

The preamble of the Sindh Local Government Ordinance 2001 is reproduced as under: “Whereas it is expedient to devolve political power and decentralize administrative and financial authority to accountable local governments for good governance, effective delivery of services and transparent decision making through institutionalized participation of the people at the grass-root level.”

In view of such empowerment, how can the elected representatives be prevented from exercising their right of choice and threatened with disqualification if they did not support the pre-referendum campaign of the president. Laws are made for the benefit of the people and their interpretation cannot be bent in favour of or for the benefit of some individuals. Fairness and justice is the motivation of every law in public interest.

Coming back to the oath, the Constitution of 1973 says that loyalty to the state is the basic duty of all citizens and obedience to the Constitution and law is their obligation. Abrogation or subversion of the Constitution or any such attempt is declared as an offence of high treason. This shows that the Constitution is a very important document giving us the system of governance which is not to be tampered with but is to be preserved and defended by all agencies and with all resources at our command. Unfortunately for us the Constitution is suspended and there is a military rule in the country.

In the third schedule to the Constitution there are formats of oath of office by the president, prime minister, ministers, governors, judges and members of the armed forces. I reproduce hereunder the oath, which is taken by the members of the armed forces as required under Article 244 of the Constitution.

“I do solemnly swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan and uphold the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which embodies the will of the people, that I will not engage myself in any political activities whatsoever and that I will honestly and faithfully serve Pakistan in the Pakistan army (or navy or airforce) as required by and under the law. May Allah Almighty help and guide me. Ameen.”

It is true that the members of the armed forces have taken oath to uphold the Constitution and not take part in political activities but serve the country under the directions of the federal government to defend Pakistan against external aggression or threat of war and, subject to law, act in aid of civil power when called as contemplated under Article 245. In order to exclude politicization, the supreme command is vested in the president and the appointments of the heads of the forces are to be made by the president in his discretion. But this provision is modified by the Thirteenth amendment made by the last civilian government making advice of the prime minister binding on the president in respect of these appointments. The end result is what we are passing through now. Of course the Supreme Court has validated the military takeover for three years and elections are going to be held in October for the return of the country to democratic path.

In such circumstances, when oath is broken and the Constitution is violated and suspended, how can an un-elected president, who is campaigning for a referendum for his election as president for five years, which is also an unconstitutional step, be angry with the elected representatives of the people and threaten them with disqualification for the breach of oath, if they did not extend support to the president in the public meetings being held in connection with referendum.

It is amusing that the unelected ministers are criticizing the elected Nazims and Naib-Nazims and threatening them with references for disqualification on the ground that they have indulged in politics just because they have not co-operated with the government in its pre-referendum campaign in support of the president.

A referendum for the purpose of electing the president is not lawful for the reason that though a referendum is mentioned in Article 48(6) of the Constitution, it has limited use.

A question of national importance can be asked to the people for answer in ‘yes’ or ‘no’. It cannot be used for presidential election for reasons: firstly, that for the election of the president, a constitutional method is provided in Article 41: that president can be elected by the members of the parliament and the provincial assemblies.

Secondly, a referendum cannot be conducted by the Election Commission of Pakistan, as it is not included in the ambit of its duties. Thirdly, if wrong decisions were taken in the past, it does not mean that the cover of validation is provided in every case as two wrongs do not make one right.

Fourthly, the Provisional Constitution Order is short in the text and mentions specifically that the provisions of the Constitution not in conflict with the object of the PCO shall apply and are to be followed by the present government, which is declared valid for three years only on the ground of state necessity, which admittedly is a constitutional deviation.

Fifthly, General Pervez Musharraf as chief of army staff is in the “service of Pakistan” and cannot contest election, until the expiry of two years between his departure from service and participation in the election. The writer is a former chief justice of Pakistan.

Nazis as role-models

By Omar Kureishi

PAKISTAN is a country that is rich in natural resources. But we are not an oil-producing country and we must count that as a blessing.

As it is, even without oil, Pakistan’s geo-strategic location has attracted the attention of those who have the muscle to impose their agendas and during the cold war, we were co-opted as stretcher-bearers in the fight against communism. The Middle East has not been so lucky. Had it not had oil, its history would have been different and there would probably have not been an Israel and even if there had, it would not have received the fierce protection of the United States.

In the years that I spent in the United States, as a university student, I had found no special love for the Jews in that country. On the contrary, I found marked strains of anti-semitism, the prejudice against them not so open or violent as against the Afro-Americans but the gentiles would still ask one another: Would you want your sister to marry one?

On a lighter side, but just as telling, Groucho Marx had had his application for membership of a country club turned down. He had written to the club that since he had married a gentile, could his son apply to become half a member? There was good reason for many Jewish film actors changing their names to safer ones.

While the United States is still mourning those who died on September 11 and the World Trade Centre has become a shrine, it is Ariel Sharon who has exploited, to the hilt, the tragedy to achieve his dream of returning the situation in the occupied territories to their pre-Oslo days. Not for the first time has the aggressor claimed to be the victim.

The destruction wrought by the Israeli army on Palestinian towns and refugee-camps, in the name of self-defence, is so great in scale, as to seem to be an act of vengeance. Hundreds of innocent Palestinian men, women and children have been killed and Sharon claims to be acting in self-defence. He has set out to demonize Yasser Arafat who he has got under house arrest and his public relations is in over-drive. The Jews have been persecuted by the Nazis but it is Nazi Germany that is its role-model.

Somehow, Sharon has been able to sell the idea to George Bush and the hardliners in his cabinet that Yasser Arafat has only got to say the word and the suicide-bombings will stop. By this perverse form of deductive logic, Yasser Arafat is responsible for the suicide-bombings! It is mind-boggling that Ariel Sharon is being believed by those who have at their disposal the most powerful intelligence network imaginable unless it is a case of there being none so blind as those who do not wish to see.

Imagine if it had been the other way round. That it was the Palestinians who had rolled their tanks into Israeli cities (that is, if they had any tanks) and were butchering the Israeli people, who would doubt that the US Marines would have already landed and B-52s would be roaring over the skies and the United Nations would have ordered an immediate cease-fire and its diktat enforced by military means?

Tony Blair, too, would have offered his soldiers and he would have toured the capitals of the world. The western media would have descended on the region in droves, each more earnest than the other, setting up a ceaseless chatter. And the Israelis would have dug up old film clips of gas-chambers and emaciated victims and shown them to the world.

There is glib talk of the peace in the Middle East and reviving talks. The Saudis came up with a plan which was half a loaf. Initially, there was an acceptance in principle of this plan. But somewhere along the way, it appears to have been dumped, as if, there was some mysterious force that does not want peace in the Middle East, peace with some honour for Palestine.

Take away the politics from the Palestine conflict and what we are seeing is a humanitarian disaster in the making. Even Palestinian ambulances are not safe. Sharon is waging total war. But more than that, he has given a religious colour to it and mosques have been shelled.

There is a great deal of anger on the streets of Arab capitals. Polls suggest a rising anti-American feeling. The Americans are perplexed about this feeling and I have heard analysts discuss this anti-American sentiment and the general consensus is that it is prompted by feelings of envy of American prosperity and I have even heard someone say, envy of their open and free society. Not one seems to link this anti-American feeling to what is happening in Palestine.

The war against terror seems to have been forgotten. Only Ariel Sharon keeps reminding Washington that he is fighting that war, making out Yasser Arafat to be a soul-mate of Osama bin Laden. Ariel Sharon is said to be a deeply religious man. Does he ever pray for the souls of the Palestinian men, women and children he has got his army to murder, most of them in cold blood? Does he ever pray for the Israelis he has had killed by his actions? Does he not know that the mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine?

The evolving president

LAST week President Bush reaffirmed his commitment to victory in Afghanistan, a victory that he rightly defined as more than purely military.

“Peace will be achieved by helping Afghanistan develop its own stable government,” the president stated; “we will work to help Afghanistan to develop an economy.” Then Mr. Bush invoked the Marshall Plan, that favourite precedent of maximalist nation builders. “By helping to build an Afghanistan that is free from this evil and is a better place in which to live, we are working in the best traditions of George Marshall,” the president said.

These statements suggest a welcome evolution in Mr. Bush’s worldview. As a candidate, he spoke with more passion about taxes and education than about international issues; and what he did say about foreign policy suggested a kind of back-to-basics emphasis on great-power relationships in place of the Clinton team’s entanglements in small, crisis-prone countries.

Now Mr. Bush has risen to the challenge of the war on terrorism, and he has come to recognize that unstable weak powers, not just hostile great powers, can threaten the United States. One sign of this conversion came last month when Mr. Bush promised the largest increase in foreign aid in recent memory. Another came last week, with his pledge of Marshall-scale engagement in Afghanistan’s reconstruction.

The challenge is to follow through on this expanded conception of foreign policy. The president needs to persuade Congress to deliver the promised 50 percent increase in foreign aid, preferably securing some kind of near-term down payment in a supplemental appropriation. But he also needs to face up to some hard facts in Afghanistan. The political and economic reconstruction that Mr. Bush rightly promises is unlikely to succeed so long as Afghanistan remains violent and unstable. And stability probably requires that the existing peacekeeping force be expanded.

The administration’s position on peacekeeping has also evolved subtly. At the start of December, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld suggested to NBC’s Tim Russert that peacekeepers might not be needed. In mid-December Mr. Rumsfeld conceded that there would be a peacekeeping force, but he cautioned that “it should be a relatively small force”. —The Washington Post

A battle Israel cannot win

By Abdul Baqi Khan

HOW did the Jewish people go from a European ghetto to a Middle Eastern ghetto? Sixty years ago they were surrounded by anti-semitic Europeans. Today they are surrounded by hostile Arabs. Was it worth the creation of Israel?

I am a Muslim and probably in the minority as I have sympathies for both the Palestinians and the Jews. It saddens me when innocents die whether they be Israelis or Palestinian.

I feel for the Palestinians. They are fighting with their bare hands. They don’t have an air force, they don’t have a navy, they don’t have an army. Their air force comprises suicide bombers. Their navy consists of a sea of unemployed youth raised for only one cause — the liberation of their land. Their army fights the intifada with stones.

The Jewish people have suffered so much in history at the hands of many. It is sad and tragic that they cannot live peacefully. Exiled from Egypt, exiled from Spain, exiled from Europe, they have managed to find another ghetto. Islam has nothing against the Jews. They are a people with a holy Book and they should be respected and treated as equals. This is not a fight between the Jews and the Muslims.

This is a fight between the occupied and the occupiers. Should the French resistance not have fought against the German invaders in World War II? Would you not fight if somebody evicted you from your home and put you in the garage? And then labelled you as a terrorist and negotiated to move you from the garage to the backyard? Would the New Yorkers not fight if somebody evicted them from their land?

The Jewish people must not do to the Palestinians what history has done to them. Judaism is about tolerance, compassion, about the belief that all Jews will face God one day and will be evaluated for their deeds. Islam is the same. And there is also the religion that talks about turning the other cheek.

Recently the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman raised a question as to why the Hindu-Muslim riots in India fail to create a ripple in the Muslim world. There are disputes in Kashmir, Cyprus, Sudan, Central Asia, China to name a few, all of them involving Muslims. What’s so special about the Palestinian issue? The Palestinians arguably may be in better shape than the Muslims in some of those other countries. According to Friedman, tiny but economically and militarily powerful Israel is a constant reminder to the Muslims of their own powerlessness and suggests that it is this poverty of dignity, not poverty of money, that is behind much of the Muslim rage.

I think one of the reasons the Palestinian issue excites so much interest and passion is because of the United States involvement. If the US stops supporting Israel and adopts the same policy as it does on Kashmir, Chechnya, Cyprus and others, the problem would become localized to a group of people fighting each other. The US support for Israel makes the Palestinians the underdog and the victims. Israeli policy is seen to be synonymous with American policy. The Israeli army gets F-16s and the latest arms and ammunitions from the US. What do the Palestinians get? Money from their alleged supporters in the Arab world so that they can tie bombs to their bodies and blow themselves up.

The perceived US bias for Israel makes this a conflict between the Arab world and the US, rather than a localized conflict. A wonderful topic for any politician looking to increase his or her stock-in-trade. A breeding ground for future radicals. A perceived tilt or neutrality by the US can do wonders for the peace process. To call the Palestinians terrorists is to rub salt over the wounds of every Arab and Muslim. A neutral stance would give more incentive to Israel to heed to the US and the international pressure.

Prince Abdullah has taken a giant step in saying that the Arab world will recognize Israel. He has the support and wherewithal to implement this initiative. Isn’t recognition better than Fortress Israel? Or will the world see another Berlin Wall?

I wish I understood the Israeli strategy. What is the end game? Surely the duty of the government of Israel is to create a peaceful environment for its citizens. Yet it does the opposite. Creating settlements on the land occupied in the 1967 war was a wrong step. If the settlers leave one day, they will suffer pain and suffering. If they don’t leave, they will suffer pain and suffering.

Israel is fighting a losing demographic battle. Palestinians in occupied territories will outnumber the Jewish settlers one day. Maybe in 50 years. What then? Would the Israeli government take a page from their own history and put the Palestinians into concentration camps and do a rerun of the holocaust. Some would argue that the Palestinians already live in a form of concentration camps.

What is the solution? Attack, destroy, subjugate and alienate, or find some friends and work out a solution. Not all Muslim countries want to obliterate Israel. Egypt and Turkey, two major Muslim countries are acquaintances if not friends of Israel. The unfortunate truth is that while the leaders of the Arab World like to grieve over the Palestinians’ plight, they consider the Palestinians to be a nuisance and would love to solve the problem and get on with their lives.

What are the other options?

Another brick in the wall: Build fortress Israel and keep the riff raff out. Is that workable? A fence seems to have worked in Cyprus. But this would mean hostilities would continue. Yes, Israel has the nuclear and military capability to keep everyone at bay, today. But for how long? In 50 years, a number of states in the Arab world will have nuclear technology. A destabilized Middle East will be a risk for the Arab states, the US and the world. A destabilized Arab world would hinder the development of local economies.

The increase in population coupled with poor standards of living will lead to desperation and further violence and drive the masses into the arms of waiting militant fundamentalists. Now, is that in Israeli or US interest? Would either of them want to pass the baton of Palestinian leadership from Arafat to Hamas to Osama bin Laden? The present incursion of Israel into Palestine territories is a mouth-watering opportunity for Arab politicians to increase their goodwill among the Arab masses. If they don’t do it somebody else will.

The Saudi plan: Move back to the 1967 borders and negotiate the return of refugees. Unacceptable, thunder the Israelis. This would tilt the demographic balance in Israel and lead to a discrimination against the Jews (a repeat of what is happening to the Palestinians now). The risk to Israel is that even if it accepts to move back to the 1967 borders, the Palestinians will come back at a later stage and demand complete control of Israel.

The only way to guarantee Israel’s safety is for countries with a vested interest in peace such as Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to police the Palestinians. Yes, there will be the Palestinians and the Israelis who will not like this solution but it will be for the Palestinians and the Israelis to handle that. The important thing is to involve as many important Arab leaders as possible who can provide leverage with the Palestinians and of course involve the US to provide leverage over Israel. Left to each other, the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis will take religious dimensions and engulf the world in Samuel Huntington’s clash of civilizations.

Is there any chance of peace with Sharon and Arafat at the helm? The mutual animosity and hatred between the two is well-known. Sharon has stated his view of Arafat recently in no uncertain terms. Sharon is a military man, who would rather solve problems through the barrel of a gun than across a negotiating table. His opposition to the Oslo accords is well-known. Arafat has spent many years fighting and is unlikely to come up with fresh, new ideas. Both sides need new leadership if this problem is to be solved. Once again Prince Abdullah’s first step towards peace is a courageous step. He represents new leadership in the Arab world as the de facto new head of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Colonial experiment: Accept that Israel was a failed colonial experiment — a legacy of the period when the sun did not set over the British Empire. A large majority of the British government in London out of touch with local reality which went on with its creation. There was a proposal for creating a Jewish settlement in Uganda. I wonder what Idi Amin would have said to that. Surprisingly nobody from the US ever offered to settle the Jewish people in the US. But that’s water under the bridge.

If Israel is to live and prosper in the Middle East, it has to become a part of the Middle East. Acceptance in the Middle east is not going to come through violence and brutal suppression. To paraphrase Neil Armstrong, the Saudi plan is a giant leap in the Middle East position. Accept their plan and work with them. Let the Arab leaders convince their constituencies. But above all keep the US out of any association or show of preferred treatment for Israel. That will only serve to inflame passions in the Muslim world. It would be tragic if anybody in the Arab world got up and paraphrased Bush “You are either with the occupied or the occupiers.”

Let’s pray that the Jews will celebrate next passover in peace that beautiful Palestinian girls would carry books in their hands rather than bombs and that Arafat will be able to attend the next Christmas service in the holy land.



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