Thursday, June 12, 2003
More excellent news from the Israeli-Palestinian front.
I'm not really being sarcastic. The premise of Oslo was that Arafat could be coopted through bribery into fighting Hamas and the other terrorists - a kind of "set a thief to catch a thief" plan. That didn't work. The premise of Operation Defensive Shield might have been to eliminate the terrorist groups, but since Arafat was left untouched, and the P.A. was targeted across the board, in situations where it was specifically involved in terror and where it wasn't, one must conclude that its real premise was to punish Arafat (or the P.A. generally) until it agreed to fight terrorism. That also didn't work, though it worked better than Oslo since the P.A. and Arafat specifically were deeply involved in terrorist activity.
So now we've arrived at the conclusion, finally, that the way to fight terrorism is to kill the terrorists. With one breath the Sharon government endorses a Palestinian state and the Road Map to get there, and shakes the hand of Mahmoud Abbas, and with another breath it declares all-out war on Hamas. Hamas, meanwhile, which was happy to collaborate with Arafat in destroying Barak, the better to bring Sharon to power in order to provoke international intervention on behalf of the Palestinians, is now hysterical with rage that a negotiations have begun yet again. All these developments are mutually consistent. The elimination of elements like Hamas is essential to any possible settlement. If the Palestinian Authority is not ready to declare that, then they will have to live with an IDF-Hamas war on their territory. But Hamas will be destroyed.
Sharon's credibility is very much on the line. Israelis want an end to terror and an end to Israeli rule over Palestinians. They want their Jewish state to live in peace with its neighbors within secure borders. If Sharon passed up what looked like a real chance for a settlement, that would hurt him badly politically. But if he made a deal that leaves Israel vulnerable to terrorist murders, that would hurt him much more. So Sharon has agreed to the general idea of a settlement, and continues to accept, one by one, the premises that led Barak to lean all the way out of the window to try to grasp Arafat's hand and end the conflict. But he has not accepted Rabin's defeatism. He is ready for war, for generations of war, if that is what the Palestinians prefer.