UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 11 (JTA) — Jewish observers are applauding President Bush for refusing to distinguish between terror attacks and acts of nationalist struggle that deliberately target innocent people. In his first speech to the United Nations, Bush made a significant nod to Palestinian dreams of statehood — including an explicit reference to “Palestine” — but warned that not even “national aspiration” could “ever justify the deliberate murder of the innocent.” As the curtain rose on the 56th U.N. General Assembly, Bush also gave Jewish observers reason to believe that the U.S.-led war on terrorism will go beyond Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden´s Al Qaida organization. “Some governments, while pledging to uphold the principles of the U.N., have cast their lot with the terrorists,” Bush said Saturday. “For every regime that sponsors terror, there is a price to be paid. And it will be paid. The allies of terror are equally guilty of murder and equally accountable to justice.” Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat made what Jewish observers saw as a standard stump speech Sunday, blaming Israel for the past year of bloodshed and resurrecting scurrilous charges that Israel is using weapons banned by international law. Pro-Israel advocates had been concerned that Israel was being sidelined in the anti-terror campaign, and feared that it would not extend to those groups that attack the Jewish state. Coming shortly after Washington froze the assets of Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, Bush´s speech was reassuring to Israel´s backers. “They´re realizing the nature of what we´re fighting, this interlocking network that you cannot fight piecemeal, but has to be fought with absolutes,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “The president drew a line: You´re either on this side or that side, and don´t think that symbolic gestures will be sufficient to put you on this side,” Hoenlein said. “Only decisive action will qualify.” Meanwhile, Arafat praised Bush´s speech, which spoke of “the day when two states, Israel and Palestine, live peacefully together within secure and recognized boundaries.” Israeli officials also sought to put a positive spin on Bush´s speech. Bush´s support for a Palestinian state was “not an anti-Israel statement, that´s a pro-Israel statement,” Israel´s deputy foreign minister, Rabbi Michael Melchior, said at a news conference at the United Jewish Communities´ General Assembly in Washington. “Israel has a government that supports the creation of a Palestinian state.” Though the explicit reference to “Palestine” shocked some Israeli officials, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said on NBC´s “Meet the Press” that the language was deliberate. In his speech, Arafat accused Israel of “state-sponsored terrorism” and “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians, and once again urged the world body to send international peacekeepers. Arafat made no reference to Bush´s refusal to condone terror related to nationalist grievances, or his statement that “peace will only come when all have sworn off, forever, incitement, violence and terror.” Israel long has complained about Arafat´s tolerance — if not encouragement — of incitement in Palestinian media, schools and mosques. “It was pretty predictable,” an Israeli diplomat said of Arafat´s performance in the cavernous, green and gold U.N. hall. “He didn´t commit himself to fighting terrorism, which is unfortunate because the whole world knows that he is not doing even the bare minimum to root out terrorism and control violence.” Indeed, Bush refused to meet with Arafat this weekend in New York because of his permissive attitude toward Palestinian terror groups. Israeli officials predicted Arafat would come under intense pressure from American and European diplomats this week to finally crack down on Palestinian terror. Observers said Bush may have had several reasons for touching only briefly on the Middle East. The General Assembly originally was scheduled to open Sept. 24, and Bush reportedly had planned a major speech on Middle East policy. The meeting was postponed after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, and Bush wanted the assembly to focus on the U.S.-led war on terrorism. The American speech on U.S.-Mideast policy now is expected to come soon after the U.N. gathering, which runs through Thursday. Washington also has tried to keep the world body from mediating the Arab-Israeli conflict because of the U.N.´s perceived pro-Palestinian bias. That perception was reinforced in early September at a U.N. anti-racism conference in South Africa, where the Arab- and Muslim-dominated body piled on Israel and portrayed it as the world´s most racist country. Thus, for Bush to address the Mideast at the General Assembly might be seen as bolstering the U.N.´s credibility in dealing with the conflict, some observers suggested. Finally, with bin Laden´s group citing the Palestinian plight as one reason behind the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush may not have wanted to dignify the theory by devoting too many words to the conflict. Overall, though, Bush offered up a remarkably tough-talking speech. After thanking U.N. members for their expressions of sympathy, he said now was the time for action. U.N. states continue to debate the definition of terrorism, with one country´s terrorist another country´s freedom fighter. The Arab and Muslim world, in particular, justifies Palestinian violence as legitimate against Israel´s “occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Bush, however, rejected that definition, saying that “national aspiration” or a “remembered wrong” is not justification for terror. “In this world there are good causes and bad causes, and we may disagree on where the line is drawn,” he said. “Yet there is no such thing as a good terrorist.” Jewish observers already have their notions of which countries harbor or sponsor such terrorists, but Western diplomats say the rest of the world will soon have a clearer idea. After Sept. 11, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution binding member states to produce reports proving they have taken steps to tighten anti- terrorism laws. Those reports are due by the end of December, and countries that fail to produce satisfactory reports may face sanctions. Lebanon, for example, last week refused a U.S. request to freeze the assets of Hezbollah. Several other aspects of Bush´s speech also pleased Jewish ears. First, he condemned “conspiracy theories” that blame Jews for the Sept. 11 attack — theories that pervade the Muslim world — as “malicious lies that attempt to shift the blame away from the terrorists themselves, away from the guilty.” In addition, after describing the anti-terror campaign as a “defining moment” for the United Nations, Bush chastised the world body for allowing its Geneva-based Commission on Human Rights to “offer seats to the world´s most persistent violators of human rights.” The commission is relentless in its criticism of Israeli treatment of the Palestinians. The United States was ousted from the commission in May, while countries like Sudan, Syria, Cuba and China have seats.
Israel, Palestinians laud Bush speech