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Israel, Palestinian Statehood and Beyond
His current station in life notwithstanding, Yasir Arafat and his supporters, no matter how near or far, have things to be thankful for; primarily among these, I’m not the Israeli Prime Minister. If I were, Arafat would have been dead within 90 minutes of the Passover massacre.
This is because, on the matter of Yasir Arafat, I have no sense of fairness and can easily draw moral distinctions between the Palestinian cause and the Israeli cause. Many Americans find themselves divided on this current conflict because, as far as they know, the moral lines were blurred beyond recognition years ago. People want to see good guys and bad guys with dealing with troublesome ambiguities (e.g. Union good, Confederacy bad; Afghanistan good, Soviet Union bad; United States good, Taliban bad). Israel’s charter calls only for self defense, but the time has long since passed for the average person to determine what’s a first strike and what’s a retaliation. And even if one can distinguish how and why each side attacks the other, he’s still having a hard time with the full blown occupation of the West Bank and the battle currently surrounding Christ’s birthplace. Joe American’s quick conditioned impulse is to think, “If Palestinians had their own State, maybe a lot of this wouldn’t be happening.” This is, unfortunately, also the position taken by the Bush administration; unfortunate because nothing could be further from the truth.
Let’s say that tomorrow, the State of Palestine comes into being as a free, unoccupied, autonomous State: suicide bombings wouldn’t stop or even decrease, they would merely become tamer accents to far more severe attacks armed, sanctioned and paid for by such terrorist States as Iran, Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia (among others). That being the case, Israel would literally be surrounded by nations warm to the idea of its ultimate demise. By this point, the war that would eventually break out between Israel and Palestine wouldn’t involve just those nations, it would involve – at various levels – Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia and probably others, up to and including the United States and Great Britain.
In the end, the best thing to come out of a Palestinian State would be Israel’s sooner-or-later military option of taking the same land they surrendered back, by force, in a legitimate, declared war. Israel may suddenly find it within themselves to surrender large portions of land for the sake of solidarity, but what is to be said when the continuous string of suicide bombers brings “peacetime” bloodshed to a point where it cannot be ignored any longer? What is it, exactly, we would like Israel to do when the conflict comes to this point? How long can you expect a nation under constant attack to stand by and do nothing in the name of appeasement?
This is President Bush’s overall problem; the United States cannot logically expect its allies to respond to terrorism any differently than we have ourselves, no matter the overall difficulties in the circumstances, whether or not we fund them directly. We cannot expect Israel to not want to Nation build, as we have, in that we have removed terrorists from power and installed a more suitable form of government, one easier to deal with, one more democratic. And not unlike our Afghan war, you would be remiss not to notice the pronounced lack of planes crashing into skyscrapers since the bombs began dropping on Kabul, et cetera.
And that, whether or not anyone has taken the time to notice, is one of the grander overall points Prime Minister Sharon, not unlike President Bush, has made since the occupation began: There hasn’t been a suicide bombing since April first, which goes to show if we shove the barrel of a gun far enough down their throats, they will pay attention. Bombings, of course, will start up again as soon as the curfew is lifted; and then what are we to say?
What we can do – and basically what we have done – is say, “This occupation has to stop (wink, wink) because, so long as we are sending Israel $3 billion a year, it matters what we say (wink, wink).” In other words, although we won’t come out and say so, Israel’s gotten the nod from the Bush administration to carry on as desired, until such a time as we send a high level cabinet member there to smooth things out, albeit only for the time being.
Let’s have no misunderstanding, though: The reason President Bush is
not going to achieve a permanent Middle East peace is the same reason Bill
Clinton couldn’t, and George H.W. Bush couldn’t, and Ronald Reagan
couldn’t, and Jimmy Carter couldn’t … neither Israel or the Palestinians
want it; Israel as long as they are being attacked, and the Palestinians
as long as Israel exists. Years from now, there is going to be an ultimate
Israeli / Palestinian endgame, it’s going to involve the United States,
and we are going to have to make painfully known who we think is right. So
far, we haven’t done that and won’t, so long as we support a Palestinian