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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

April 12, 2003

USS Cluless on Palestinian terrorism

One of the critical but non-obvious things which changed a couple of days ago is that one of the biggest supporters of the Palestinian Intifada just went bye-bye. Saddam paid $25,000 to the family of every successful suicide bomber to hit Israel, but there was other less public support for the Palestinians, monetarily and in other ways. There's a good reason that the Palestinians were visibly pro-Saddam during the war; they knew who their friends were.

Unfortunately, that particular friend is either dead or on the run, and in any case isn't going to be funneling any more money or weapons into the West Bank or Gaza. And in coming weeks, the other major sources of funds and weaponry for the Intifada will get messages from the US that we'd be pleased if they would knock it off.

Even terrorist war is expensive. As war goes, it's cheap, but it isn't free. And the major terrorist groups among the Palestinians also spend money on things like schools and food for the areas they control, as well as paying the salaries of a lot of people and greasing a fair number of palms, which is a major reason for their popular support.

The only thing that's kept it going has been substantial subsidies from Iran, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Iraq's funding is history, and with the distinct possibility of a revolution in Iran soon, that source, too, would end. As to the Saudis and Syrians, they will be "encouraged" to "cooperate". Once that funding ceases, the political balance of power among the Palestinians will change.

Which means that the resources available to groups like Hamas and Hizbollah, and even Fatah, to permit them to buy loyalty from the Palestinian civilians, will decline. Actually, with the fall of Saddam it's already going to decline, and as we start working on the other nations it will decline even further. And their reputation and power will decline with it. In the long run, this is going to contribute more to the "roadmap to peace" than any silly external agreement sponsored by the Russians and Europeans.

I think there's still going to be an international effort in that direction. But Bush hasn't forgiven Arafat, and the "roadmap to peace" is going to require certain concrete steps from the Palestinians before they get rewarded with any kind of autonomy or homeland.

Bottom line: complete cessation of all attacks on Israel, and total and public abandonment of the "right of return"; real elections; Arafat out of the government; reduction in corruption and graft. There will be a timeline to creation of a Palestinian state but only if the Palestinians do these things first. That's going to be Bush's bottom line to participate in the process. And everyone knows that without American buy-in, no such effort can succeed.

This week's victory in Iraq is the most important event in the Israeli-Palestinian struggle in the last 20 years. The chance for peace between them has never been greater. This is actually the best thing that's happened to the Palestinians in years, even though they don't think so yet. But it's going to begin a process leading them to abandon the struggle to try to destroy Israel, and a process of beginning to fundamentally accept that they will have to coexist with Israel. Only then can peace come.