Sunday, August 22, 2004

Arafat demise would hasten worsened conflict 8-20-04

ByRay Hanania

Many supporters of Israel are hardening their attitudes against the Palestinians, arguing that Israel's goal should not be compromise but the Palestinians' defeat.

This shift is evident among leaders of the extremist Likud Party, which governs Israel today, and the Labor Party, which initiated the peace process in 1988 with the Palestinians and has lost significant support in recent years following the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Clearly, the violence of the past four years since the collapse of the peace process is the cause of much of this attitude shift. But it is unfair to blame it all on the Palestinians. Israelis must also accept their measure of blame, even though few accept any blame at all.

But it is also no longer a luxury that Israelis can brush aside. The reality of Israeli life demands that Israelis take a serious look at the past four years and their current attitudes and consider that they are part of the problem, too.

Israel's secret service recently reported that the number of Israeli civilian fatalities during the past four years of the Intifada has reached 674, closing in on the 755 Israeli civilians killed during the 53 preceding years since Israel's creation.

In contrast, there have been about 3,128 Palestinian deaths during the same period that began when Ariel Sharon unilaterally declared an end to the peace process from the plaza in front of the al-Aqsa Mosque. Is that Israel's dream? To have a nation that is constantly faced with death and violence? Because that is what they have.

The Israelis have a choice: to fight for a genuine and fair peace with the Palestinians, who have every reason to question Israel's sincerity, or continue on this endless path of violence and conflict.

Israel established its first settlement after occupying East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1967 war. Israelis always maintained the settlements are temporary and can be removed. In reality, the largest settlements are now permanent cities, and most of the land around East Jerusalem is essentially annexed by Israel.

The wall Israel is building deep inside the occupied West Bank is also supposed to be "temporary."

When it comes to Israeli policies, nothing is temporary. Everything is well thought out, and the purpose is always the same: enlarge Israel at the expense of Christian and Muslim Palestinians.

Now, I am not saying Palestinians don't have problems. Arafat's administration faces charges of corruption. He has been isolated by Israel and a partisan United States, and he even acknowledged "mistakes" were made.

The real issue is that civil laws in Palestine have disintegrated into greater lawlessness.

Worse, extremist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which have always sought Arafat's removal, thanks to Israel, may have their wish. Their influence over the Palestinian population continues to grow while support for peace has all but vanished, just as it seems to have vanished from Israel. Clearly, Arafat's reign is coming to an end.

What concerns me, and what should concern most Israelis, is that Arafat is not the real issue, just a distraction. Arafat would not be replaced by someone who embraces compromise or continued negotiations.

The forced demise of Arafat -- often threatened by Israeli extremists -- would be final confirmation that peace between Palestinians and Israelis is impossible and that both sides must fight to the bitter end. His natural demise would, at best, plunge the region into worse conflict.

Arafat's successor will likely be someone who is more militant and more driven by faith than reason. That person will argue that the Palestinians should not compromise with Israel, but instead seek Israel's defeat.

Sound familiar?

To find out more about Ray Hanania, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at COPYRIGHT 2004 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC

No comments: