Palestinian state - but not now

By Bill Richardson, 12/24/2001

The Boston Globe

RIGHT NOW, Yasser Arafat is destined for the history books as the man who
squandered Palestine. And far from being the passing conventional wisdom of
the day, the viewpoint that a Palestinian nation was fumbled not for
principle but for Arafat's refusal to be a serious leader is growing more
permanent with each moment that Arafat and the Palestinian Authority punt on
the tough choices.

Having known Arafat somewhat differently from most foreign policy observers
- both as an ally in the Arab-Israeli peace process while I was ambassador
to the United Nations and as the builder of a nascent Palestinian state
interested in economic development when, as secretary of energy, I met him
in his Gaza City office to discuss resource issues - it is disheartening to
realize now that the faith placed in Arafat and the patience shown him by
the international community have amounted to little and that we are closer
to permanently writing Arafat off than redeeming him.

Still, in all likelihood, there will be a Palestinian state. It will consist
of the Gaza Strip and a majority of the land of the West Bank. It will
happen when Palestinians realize that the State of Israel is a permanent and
just fixture in the Middle East and the world, that it will hold Jerusalem
as its capital, and that it has earned these rights not simply through
military force but by historic reality and embracing the ideals of democracy
and plurality that create open, prosperous, and stable nations.

Whether Yasser Arafat and the PLO play a role in this state remains to be
seen, depending solely on their willingness to fight extremism within their
own community and declare unequivocally their siding with the West against
Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Al Qaeda, and other terrorist forces in the
Middle East.

Until this moment of clarity dawns upon the Palestinian people, though, talk
of a Palestinian nation is dead in the water. The Bush administration's
forward leaning policy pronouncements on supporting Palestinian statehood
and open reference to Palestine while addressing the United Nations are now
all past tense as the president and his team find themselves backtracking
away from Arafat and with little choice but to be at least sympathetic to
Israel's own war against terrorism that may now include Arafat's Palestinian

The painful, uncomfortable truth is that Arafat has been playing both sides
for years. In English he is a willing partner in peace, a statesman
protecting his people and hoping to end bloodshed; but when speaking to Arab
audiences, Arafat is the pistol-wearing guerrilla of old, filled with venom
for Israel and fueling the worst of Palestinian blood libel against the
Jewish state. When the cameras are on, Arafat is saddened and bewildered by
the terror committed in his people's name - whether a suicide bombing in a
Tel Aviv disco or Jerusalem pizzeria, or the Sept. 11 attack on US targets -
but he seems quite unwilling, privately, to choke off the Islamic Jihad,
Hamas, and Fatah Hawk terrorists who work within Palestinian-controlled
land, and he praises suicide attacks as a heroic deed to turn one's body
into a bomb. The same Arafat who paid a shiva call to Yitzhak Rabin's widow
after his assassination by extremist Jews also lets Palestinian university
students build shrines celebrating suicide bombings in Jerusalem, threatens
international news organizations that report Palestinian revelry after the
Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, and within three weeks of the terror
attacks issued a joint statement with Hamas calling for (continued) intifada
and resistance to Israel.

In short, statehood would reward someone who has yet to demonstrate
absolute, genuine, lasting, eager, and public commitments to peace,
tolerance, and compromise.

The Palestinian arguments are well known. They have publicly accepted Israel
and seek only to return to their own land and to regain Jerusalem as the
Palestinian capital. But the Middle East is littered with empty words and
gestures - on all sides - and the only currency in pursuit of peace and
statehood are deeds and action. When, in early August, the Palestinian
Authority invited Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Popular Front for the Liberation of
Palestine, Palestinian Liberation Front-Abu Abbas Faction, Abu Nidal and the
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command - all
designated as foreign terrorist organizations by the United States - to
potentially join the Palestinian government, it spoke volumes about vacuous
entreaties to peace.

When Arafat ignores intelligence about coming terror attacks aimed at Israel
or turns the arrest and detention of terrorists into no more than a 72-hour
inconvenience - which has become the Palestinian Authority's standard
procedure - he forfeits all credibility as a peace partner and responsible
leader. And when an Israeli demand for seven consecutive days of peace
before serious negotiations can begin - a week without suicide attacks, car
bombs, or snipers targeting Jewish citizens - is dismissed by the
Palestinian Authority with some weak equivocation about Israeli troops
remaining in areas vital to the nation's security, as if soldiers at
checkpoints and confrontations with bombers at work share any parallel with
Palestinians blowing up 15-year-old girls or shooting commuters on buses, it
is clear evidence that Arafat and his advisers remain hostage to propaganda
rather than determined peacemakers.

Thankfully the White House has shifted gear from calling for and recognizing
a Palestinian state to understanding that statehood comes as a follow-on to
calm in the streets, open acceptance of Israeli security rights, and a real
peace. If the events of the past three months have taught the United States
anything it should be that cutting short-term deals - in this case
Palestinian statehood to demonstrate US bona fides to the Arab world - does
little long-term good. In 1991 we embraced Syria as part of an anti-Saddam
Hussein coalition; earlier this year Syria hosted a gathering of radical
Palestinian groups who agreed to resist and undo any peace agreement with
Israel. In the 1980s we supplied Saddam Hussein's military for the nation's
war against Iran, only to see him first invade Kuwait and later use his army
to crush a post-Gulf War, US-encouraged uprising. And between 1979 and 1989
we armed a ragtag group of Muslim mujahideen, successfully liberating
Afghanistan and accelerating the collapse of the Soviet Union, only to agree
to disengage from Afghanistan to appease the Soviets and in the process
loose the chaotic, ignorant forces that birthed Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda,
and the Taliban. Deals of convenience have an alarming way of coming back to
haunt us - in intelligence circles it's called blowback - and supporting the
creation of a Palestinian state under current circumstances falls squarely
into this category.

That said, Israel is not without fault and should not consider its moral
high ground all that lofty. For starters, building and expanding settlements
in the West Bank even while claiming to want a peace agreement with the
Palestinians is disingenuous and unhelpful - the criticism of Yasser Arafat
playing two sides of the same coin should come to mind. Using US-supplied
F-16 jets and artillery to respond to bombings and snipers seems
disproportionate, and surely the Israeli Defense Force has tactics that are
effective without being politically inflammatory. Though not completely
responsible for current violence, Ariel Sharon's visit last year to the
Temple Mount area housing the Dome of the Rock has to be one of the more
ill-advised and boneheadedly self-centered political acts of modern times,
the equivalent of putting out a fire with gasoline. The general failure of
peace negotiations resides with many players, and Israel should accept its
share of responsibility, though multiple suicide bombings in Jerusalem and
Haifa during the past weeks surely obscures any wider failures.

Worth remembering is that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak placed on
the table at Wye Plantation last year a plan that would have given
Palestinians the Gaza Strip, almost total control over the West Bank,
territorial concessions to connect the two areas, a reasonable role in the
life of Jerusalem, and unquestioned statehood. Arafat wanted more, suddenly
making the return of thousands, perhaps millions, of Palestinians to
Israel-proper his ''ne plus ultra.'' It finally dawned on Barak that, for
Arafat, Israeli concessions would never be enough and, in fact, what the
Palestinian chairman was aiming for was a way to diplomatically or
militarily weaken the Jewish state's security and viability.

Since then, Arafat and the Palestinian Authority have done little to
reestablish their place as partners in a peace process, and the State
Department's PLO Commitments Compliance Act Report now finds the PLO failed
to call consistently on Palestinians to refrain from violence and did not
make an effort to discipline Palestinian Authority or PLO officials who
instigated or engaged in violence.

At a time when the United States is asking nations around the world to be
principled and to take a stand against terrorism in their midst, Arafat has
continued to pursue the path of least resistance, avoiding hard choices and
confrontations that would necessitate taking Hamas and Islamic Jihad head

Ten years ago, Arafat may have chosen the political course to statehood, but
he has lacked either the sincerity or will to hew to it and by avoiding
tough decisions he has imperiled his people's hope for nationhood. The path
is still open to the Palestinians - when Hamas and Islamic Jihad are
completely shut down, from their militant operations to the clinics and
charities used for political cover, when peace and coexistence are pledged
in both English and Arabic, and when Israel is assured it has a partner and
not a modern-day Trojan horse to share a border with - but following it may
come without Arafat. Having lost five wars and been propagandized throughout
the Middle East, the Palestinian people now have to commit to a homeland
that coexists with Israel as their ultimate goal and then voice that ideal
above all other calls for violence, obstinacy, or delay.

The good news for Arafat and the Palestinians, who now risk a Hamas-led
rebellion within their own ranks, is that the current state of world affairs
offers them a real opportunity. A series of steps from a firm cease-fire,
dialogue with Israel, the decapitation of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other
terrorists, demonstrable support for the antiterrorism coalition closing in
on the Taliban and Osama bin Laden, and the Arab world's acceptance of
Israel's legitimacy will put a Palestinian homeland at the top of the
international community's priorities. Then the Bush administration, the
United Nations, the European Union, and the world in general can dust off a
plan for Palestinian statehood. But not until then.

Bill Richardson is a former US secretary of energy and ambassador to the
United Nations. He is now senior managing director of Kissinger McLarty
Associates, a strategic advisory firm based in Washington and New York.

INTERESTING TIMES: Arafat vs. the Bush Doctrine

By Saul Singer
The Jerusalem Post
December, 24 2001

(December 24) Question: Who is the nemesis of the war on terrorism? A: Osama
bin Laden, B: Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, C: Militant Islam or D:
Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat?

The answer is E: All of the above, but the division of labor is not what you
might think.

To rank these villains, a distinction must be made between terrorism itself
and the legitimacy of terrorism in international relations. For his role in
September 11, bin Laden has earned the title of world's No. 1 terrorist. But
no man has done more to delegitimize terrorism in the eyes of the world. The
enormity of September 11 has led the world to understand, as President
George W. Bush said at the United Nations, "No national aspiration, no
remembered wrong can ever justify the deliberate murder of the innocent."

Instead of the war he was trying to launch - that of the Islamic world
against the United States - bin Laden succeeded in launching an American war
to eradicate terrorism. Crushing bin Laden was an obvious opening step in
this war, but now that his Taliban protectors have fallen and his days are
numbered, his status will soon be downgraded from top terrorist to former

With bin Laden on the run, Iraq's Saddam Hussein looms as the primary
must-defeat target of the war on terrorism. As the icon of state-supported
terrorism, everyone understands that Saddam must fall if this war is to mean
anything. A strong case can be made that his fall is not enough, but there
is no plausible definition of victory that leaves Saddam in place. And now
the Afghan war has revealed the road map for how to do it: Support the local
opposition to the hilt and watch as the tyrant's forces abandon him in

After Saddam falls, a corner will have been turned in the war against
state-supported terrorism, because the fall of two regimes will go far
toward scaring other governments out of the terror business. A string of
American victories will also dampen the attraction of militant Islam, but
the US will also have to insist that Saudi Arabia stop funding schools
across the Muslim world that incubate jihad against the West.

Over the longer term, winning this war requires addressing its real "root
causes" - not poverty or the lack of a Palestinian state, but dictators who
attempt to diffuse domestic dissent against themselves by fomenting hatred
of the US and Israel.

All of the above is rapidly percolating into the post-September 11
conventional wisdom. But what is Arafat doing on this list? Arafat is a big
problem for Israel, but what challenge does he present to the war on

The answer is that Arafat is the most serious threat to Bush's courageous
goal of not just crushing terrorists, but ending the utility of terrorism in
international relations. Arafat is mounting the most brazen and credible bid
to carving out an exception to the global unacceptability of terrorism.

The most succinct statement of the Bush Doctrine is, as he told a
Thanksgiving gathering of US troops: "if you harbor terrorists, you are a
terrorist." Arafat is setting out to prove not only the possibility of
harboring terrorists and holding power, but of reaping diplomatic rewards
through terrorism.

This is not surprising, because Arafat has achieved everything in his life
either by terrorism or by promising to refrain from terrorism. Arafat is a
poster boy for the proposition that terrorism works.

Terrorism made him the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian
people" in the eyes of the world (and ultimately of Israel). It even allowed
him to turn down an offer of a Palestinian state over 97% of the West Bank
and Gaza because he would have had to give up on destroying Israel
demographically through the "right of return." US and Israeli leaders are
fond of saying that violence has not gotten the Palestinians anywhere. The
truth is it has gotten them a voucher for a state that they have so far
chosen not to redeem.

Israel obviously cannot return to negotiations at gunpoint, whether that gun
is still shooting, or just cocked and loaded. It seems to be less obvious,
however, that if Arafat succeeds in making himself an exception to the Bush
Doctrine it is not just Israel's problem but the first Western defeat in the
global war on terrorism. The implications of such a defeat would be far
reaching, and could substantially undermine the positive reverberations from
victories in Afghanistan and (potentially) Iraq.

In some ways, Arafat represents the greatest threat to the war on terrorism,
because he has the best chance of poking a gaping hole in the Bush Doctrine.

Distributed by MidEastTruth


December 24, 2001


FBI Overlooks Foreign
Sources of Anthrax

By Edward Jay Epstein.
Mr. Epstein is the author of "Dossier: The Secret History of Armand Hammer."

The government seems hell-bent in its effort to limit the suspects in the anthrax mystery to a domestic loner. First, the FBI's behavioral analysis came up with the profile of a lone wolf based on its "exacting handwriting and linguistic analysis" of one letter that contained 18 words and another that contained 27 words. It suggested that the writer of these two letters was a single disgruntled American, not connected to the jihadist terrorists of Sept. 11 (even though the letter used the plural pronoun "we" and began with an underlined "9-11").

The problem is that this approach could not apply to the attacks for which no letter was found, such as the one in Florida. More important, the "lone wolf" theory failed to explain how a single person could acquire a virulent strain of Ames bacteria and weaponize it into an aerosol by milling the spore to one to five microns in diameter and producing billions of spores.

Initially, the FBI theorized that this strain was widely available, since it had been circulated to thousands of researchers, but this confused the nonvirulent Ames strain (which lacked an outer protective shells and toxic proteins) with the virulent one contained in the letters. As it turned out, only a small number of repositories -- fewer than 20 -- ever had access to the virulent strain. The search might have been narrowed down to a single repository if the FBI had not allowed an Agriculture Department facility at Iowa State to destroy through incineration the specimens that constituted the "family tree" of the Ames strain (which had originally been found in 1932 in Ames, Iowa).

Next, an analysis at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff found that the DNA of the anthrax used in the attacks was indistinguishable from an Ames strain sample provided by the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease at Fort Detrick, Md. At this point, the White House spokesman Ari Fleischer commented that the "evidence is increasingly looking like" the anthrax-laced letters came from a domestic source.

This assumption is premature. The virulent strain of the Ames virus is also found abroad.

David Franz, who headed the biological-research program at Fort Detrick between 1987 and 1998, said that when the Army wanted to conduct defensive experiment on the Ames strain, it had to obtain the "information" from a British military lab that did experiments with Ames anthrax in the powdered form. Evidently, the virulent Ames strain had been sent from the U.S. to Britain, and, after the U.S. destroyed its stockpiles in the 1970s, samples had to be obtained from the British facility at Porton Downs, specifically from the Center for Applied Microbiology and Research (CAMR). Martin Hugh-Jones, a scientist at Lousiana State University who received a sample from CAMR in the 1990s, recalls that it was marked "October, 1932." So the matching sample traces not only to the U.S. but to Britain.

The security of the British anthrax bacteria is complicated by its privatization. In 1993, at the time it was supplying the virulent Ames strain sample, CAMR was privatized by the British government and became part of Porton Products Ltd. Porton Products was owned by Speywood Holdings Ltd., which, in turn, was owned by I&F Holdings NV, a Netherlands Antilles corporate shell owned by Fuad El-Hibri, a Lebanese Arab with joint German-U.S. citizenship; his father, Ibrihim El-Hibri; and possibly other undisclosed investors.

Prior to his taking over this biotech company, Fuad El-Hibri had worked in the mergers-and-acquisitions department of Citibank in Jedda, Saudi Arabia, where he specialized in arranging investments for large Saudi investors. Saudi Arabia then was interested in obtaining an anthrax vaccine to counter Saddam Hussein's biological warfare capabilities. But the U.S. would not provide it.

So when Mr. El-Hibri took over the British biotech lab, he reorganized its bio-terrorism defense business, and arranged deliveries of biotech defense products to Saudi Arabia. Mr. El-Hibri was unavailable for comment, but the ownership is a matter of record and he has not made a secret of his involvement in bio-warfare research. Indeed, he testified before Congress in 1999: "I participated in the marketing and distribution of substantial quantities of two bio-defense vaccines -- botulinum Type A and anthrax."

Even more intriguing, Mr. El-Hibri's interest in anthrax vaccines did not stop with CAMR. In 1998, he arranged a leveraged buyout of the Michigan Biological Products Institute. MBPI, which originally had been owned by the state of Michigan, held the exclusive contract for providing the U.S. government with anthrax vaccine. While its vaccine worked well against the Vollum strain of anthrax (used by Russia), it was more problematic against the Ames strain. So it had conducted tests with the virulent Ames strain on guinea pigs, mice and monkeys with mixed results. BioPort's spokeperson confirmed that it had access to the virulent Ames strain for testing on animals.

To take over MBPI, Mr. El-Hibri became an American citizen, and gave retired Adm. William J. Crowe Jr., a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a large block of stock in Intervac, one of the corporations involved in the maneuver. The controlling shareholder was the same I&F Holdings used to take control of the British biotech lab, CAMR.

He then renamed the company BioPort. BioPort, which controlled America's anthrax vaccine, was apparently of some interests to scientists in Afghanistan since an environmental assessment report of its planned laboratory renovations was turned up in the house of a Pakistani scientist in Kabul.

So far, the offshore availability of anthrax has been overshadowed by the search for a domestic lone wolf. The investigative focus needs to be widened.


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