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

May 28, 2003

The Bloodied Map

The New Republic has this editorial, about which I imagine few would disagree except for many of us, Arafat has not really been sidelined
Of course there were five suicide bombings in Israel in two days. The danger of progress toward peace was in the air, and for the murderous maximalists of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade there is no more terrifying danger. The political violence followed the "road map" as the night follows the day. And it is precisely the choice between night and day, between the darkness of their stateless and self-righteous misery and the light of their agreement to accept a Palestinian state that would live calmly alongside Israel, that the Palestinians now face. It is finally their choice—and not any decision that Ariel Sharon or George W. Bush may make—that will determine the political direction of their region and the life prospects of its inhabitants.

The decisive fact about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the "obstacle to peace" that is greater even than the settlement policy of Israel or the inconstant attention of the United States, is the internecine struggle in the Palestinian community, the civil war that has been raging for years between the jihadists and the secularists. What sort of society do the Palestinians wish for themselves and for their children? As a people, do they dream of going to Mecca or to Brussels? The so-called Al Aqsa intifada has been, to a considerable extent, the revolt of the jihadists against the secularists; and since the spineless and unprincipled Yasir Arafat was the apparent leader of the secularists, the jihadists have not met with significant resistance. Quite the contrary. Arafat had political uses for the crimes against Israeli civilians that he routinely condemned. He pandered not only to the mortal enemies of Israel, but also to the mortal enemies of a modern Palestine. Those enemies are the same holy and homicidal people.[...]The Sharon government can hardly be blamed for taking a bloodied view of the renewal of a peace process. If Abu Mazen cannot restrain the terrorists in his community, then his rise does not really amount to Palestinian reform after all. If the Palestinian prime minister and his security chief are ever going to prove that they care enough about the creation of a Palestinian state to use force against the Palestinians who are preventing it, if they are ever going to demonstrate that their community will choose historical responsibility over ideological purity, they must do so now. Israel's skepticism is not based on nothing.

And yet Israel must not allow the provocations of the Palestinian jihadists to become all that it cares to know about the present circumstances of the conflict. With the elimination of Saddam Hussein and the neutralization of Yasir Arafat (if indeed he has been neutralized), the United States has fulfilled two of Israel's most cherished security fantasies. There may be elements of the "road map" that the Israelis cannot abide—and the sponsorship of the United Nations and the European Union is not the smartest way of assuring Israel that its understanding of its own safety will genuinely be honored—but sometimes one gets the impression that the rejection of peace plans has become an unexamined reflex, a cognitive habit, of Likud governments. This would be a terrible mistake. Thinking about security means thinking concretely, exploring every turn of events for the possibility of a way out of all these torments. There is a difference between vigilance and despair.[more: reg req'd]