Monday, May 06, 2002
Another piece in Ha'aretz about how, while Condi and Colin disagree on many things about the Israeli situation, they argee on the necessity of dealing with Arafat. Sharon hasn't gotten here with his clippings file yet, but I don't expect it to make a difference. Which is really too bad.
Arafat has no incentive to play this game. The pro-American (more or less) Arab governments can make noises all they want. They may really want him to play - after all, his intifadah now threatens them more than an Israeli victory does - but he has no incentive to listen. Every phone call they make to him only underscores his strength and their weakness, and gives him a further incentive not to play ball.
And there's something wrong with the whole formulation about choosing the Palestinians' leaders for them. Arafat is guilty of war crimes. Israel would be within its rights not to declare him irrelevant but to capture him, try him, and execute him. The fact that he was democratically elected is irrelevant; Milosevic was also democratically elected, more or less - and more or less is the best that Arafat can claim as well.
If what Condi really means is that Israel can't hand-pick the Palestinian leadership, she has a point. I've made the argument in the past that Israel, by the nature of its relationship with the Palestinians, can't serve as a colonial "tutor" in the ways of democracy. But that just means that some other power has to play that role if Israel is ever to be able to live with a two-state solution. The Palestinian territories need to be de-Nazified. Arafat cannot and will not do that. Maybe Israel can. Maybe Jordan would be better suited to do so, or maybe America. Israel should be open to suggestions for who could best do the job. But until this happens, it's just madness to talk about reform of the P.A., and madness to talk about peace.
And not only does Arafat have no incentive to cooperate in such a project, but relying on him to execute it ensures its failure because everyone - everyone - knows that Arafat is the orchestrator of the terror, and the Palestinians know this best of all. Any deal that allows him to remain in power is an endorsement of the murder of civilians as a legitimate war tactic, and the whole point of de-Nazifying the Palestinian territories is to put such tactics beyond the pale.
Sharon needs to explain to President Bush not only how complicit Arafat is in the murder of Israelis (Bush surely knows this) but what the stakes are for Israel. Israel cannot afford to send the message that the murder of its citizens is acceptable, and so long as Arafat is in command of the P.A., that is the message being delivered. America can finesse its own relations with the Arab world however it needs to, and Israel will be helpful, but Israel cannot legitimate Arafat without disastrous consequences. If the Palestinians want to negotiate a peace, they will pick another leader. If America wants to help them do so, America will find some diplomatic means for removing Arafat.
If America is truly convinced that there is no way to remove Arafat without disastrous consequences, and Israel knows that Arafat cannot be re-legitimated without disastrous consequences, then the most that can be hoped for is a lull in the fighting, and it is not clear why Arafat would agree to even this. Sharon's talks with Bush must therefore focus on the backup plan for when Arafat torpedos the current peace initiatives. What does Bush expect Israel to do when terrorism erupts during the peace conference, as it will? If Bush is holding Crown Prince Abdullah responsible for Arafat's good behavior, what are the consequences if Arafat does not behave? How, precisely, does Bush intend to hold Abdullah responsible?
This is a President who loves to talk about "responsibility" and how actions must have "consequences." Now is the time for Sharon to probe him about what these consequences are going to be.