Wednesday, August 20, 2003
Here's my question: if the ball is now "entirely" in Mahmoud Abbas' court to "fight terror" - what if he drops the ball?
What, precisely, is the grave consequence that the Sharon government is holding back if Abbas refuses to fight a civil war with Hamas and Islamic Jihad - and, for that matter, the Al Aqsa Martyrs of Fatah?
I don't know what to make of stories like this one. Israel's defense and intelligence establishment began warning that mass-casualty terrorism was going to start up again several weeks ago. They've been saying for months that it's not acceptable for Abbas to say he's against violence but unwilling to forcibly disarm the Palestinian murder gangs. So - what are they going to do about it if Abbas "sticks to his guns" and refuses to fight?
The Palestinians have figured out a pretty good angle, it seems to me. The Vietnamese mastered the art of negotiating while fighting. Well, the Palestinians have done them one better: they will have a titular leader who espouses non-violence, while terror groups continue their murderous activities with impunity. What, precisely, are the Israelis to do? If they knew how to eliminate the terror threat, why didn't they do so a year ago, unilaterally? If they do not, then what is the point of retaliation - to punish Abbas? But they want Abbas to succeed, don't they?
Ariel Sharon, I fear, has made the same mistake twice. Twice he has allowed Yasser Arafat to escape his just reward. It will not do to blame the United States for either decision; even if America leaned strongly on Israel, it was Israel's decision that Arafat's head was not worth angering the United States. I don't want to hear from people blaming the Bush Administration for Israel's dilemma. Israel's dilemma is that while she has shown she can fight, and endure, a war of attrition, and cannot be broken by terror, she had not shown that she can win a decisive victory in such a war. Indeed, it is not possible to do so, by the very nature of wars of attrition. Decisive victory cannot be achieved; it can only transpire because of the other side's collapse. The other side has, once again, cleverly avoided utter collapse.
So the tanks will roll into Ramallah again. Operations will be conducted that will degrade the terrorists' capabilities. Palestinian civilians will suffer more, unfortunately, and hopefully Israeli civilians will suffer less, for a while. But there will be no victory, because Sharon - and everyone else in Israel, included Bibi, including even Avigdor Liberman and his ilk - do not know what a decisive victory would look like.
Sorry; I'm getting depressed.