Monday, November 15, 2004

Rabin-Arafat doctrine must be embraced, 11-15-04

Rabin-Arafat doctrine must be embraced
Arlington Heights Daily Herald
Posted Monday, November 15, 2004
By Ray Hanania

When Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin shook hands at the White House to launch the unprecedented peace process in 1993, the message they conveyed was one of attitude change.

Palestinians and Israelis had to change how they looked at each other to embrace real peace. Instead of looking back at the horrors of the past, Palestinians and Israelis had to look forward, toward the promise of a future of peace.

It was revolutionary.

For many Palestinians, Rabin, then Israeli prime minister, was a terrorist. A murderer. A vicious killer. Rabin inflicted untold horrors on the Palestinian people. Yet in 1995 when he was murdered by an Israeli settler extremist, Palestinians stood up and expressed their condolences, sorrow and grief.

Now that Rabin's partner has died, within one week of the ninth anniversary of Rabin's own assassination, I am appalled at the horrific lack of compassion being shown toward Arafat by many Israelis and Jewish-American leaders.

They seem to celebrate in his death. That is exactly the kind of attitude that encourages violence and discourages peace.

If Israel's government really wanted to support the peace process, they would have allowed Arafat to be buried in Jerusalem, which is as much a Palestinian city as it is a Jewish city.

Instead, Israel's hard-line government rejected Jerusalem as a site for Arafat's burial. But Palestinians have said that Arafat's Ramallah tomb will be only a temporary plot, holding out hope that one day his final resting place will be in Jerusalem, where it belongs.

Israelis brush off Arafat as a "terrorist" and blame him for the collapse of the peace process, as if Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has not played a hand in destroying and undermining peace.

The fact is both Palestinians and Israelis have engaged in violence, terrorism and horrendous atrocities against each other. Sharon's predecessors Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin were both branded as terrorists during the Palestine Mandate years in the 1940s. They committed unspeakable acts of brutality and murder and terrorism, and they were declared terrorists.

But attitude is what drove Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to reach across that divide of hatred and seek to achieve peace, even with a man like Begin who was one of the worst terrorists in Palestinian and Arab eyes.

Arafat was a great revolutionary and a great freedom fighter. He single-handedly led the Palestinians out of the oblivion imposed by Israelis who declared that the Palestinians never existed and had no rights to nationhood.

Arafat was the first Palestinian leader of substance to officially recognize Israel, and to embrace and promote the two-state solution. Though that peace process has collapsed, peace talks can and should be resumed. Arafat remained steadfast in his insistence that Palestinians everywhere, including in America, support the peace process despite its many difficulties.

It is time for Palestinians and Israelis in the Middle East and in the United States to re-embrace the Rabin-Arafat doctrine, change their attitudes and reopen the contacts that have been abandoned for the past four years.

What Palestinians and Israelis need today is that attitude change to make peace possible.

Burying Arafat in Jerusalem, a city that must be shared by both peoples, is a strong first step toward peace.


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