April 20, 2004


Does Israel Need a Plan? (Daniel Pipes, February 2003, Commentary)

The year 2002 will be remembered as a low point in the long conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, when diplomacy came to a standstill, emotions boiled over, blood ran in the streets, and the prospects of all-out war drew closer. Anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic furies seemingly put to rest suddenly revived with stunning vehemence. The existence of Israel appeared imperiled as it had not been for decades.

This picture is accurate as far as it goes, but it omits one other salient feature of the landscape in 2002. The year also witnessed a host of new plans, initiatives, and schemes for fixing the situation. None of these ideas came from the Palestinian side—hardly surprising, given that Yasir Arafat seems to see violence against Israelis as the solution to all his problems. Instead, they issued from various parties in Israel and the United States, with an echo or two from Europe and the Arab states.

These plans, of which the best known is the Bush administration's "road map," run the gamut from tough-seeming to appeasing. But they have two qualities in common. All of them give up on the Oslo-era assumption of Palestinian-Israeli comity as the basis for negotiation. But at the same time, all of them proceed from a fundamentally flawed understanding of the conflict and therefore, if actually implemented, would be likely to increase tensions. None of them can lead to a resolution of the conflict; that requires an entirely different approach.

Suggestions for resolving the conflict fall into three main categories. The first consists of proposals for Israel to retain a significant portion of the territories won in the 1967 war while effectuating a unilateral separation from the Palestinians living there. [...]

Perhaps the simplest proposal for separation is the one that does not require moving people. It is to build a physical wall between the two populations. "A Protective Fence: the Only Way" was a popular bumper sticker in Israel before the Sharon government began building such an electronic boundary along a 192-mile line approximately between Israel and the West Bank. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon favors a beefed-up version of this plan, with trenches and mine fields, arguing that in combination, walls and buffer zones "will contribute to the security of all Israeli citizens." [...]

As for fences and buffer zones, they offer poor protection. Terrorists can go over a fence in gliders, around it in boats, or under it in tunnels; they can fire mortars or rockets over a wall, pass through checkpoints using false identification papers, and recruit Israeli Arabs or Western sympathizers on the wall's other side. Once a wall goes up, moreover, Israel would effectively surrender its influence over what happens beyond it, within the Palestinian Authority, including the latter's ability to import weapons and foreign troops. Nor, finally, would hunkering down behind a fence send the Palestinians the intended message, convincing them to give up on violence; on the contrary, it would likely reinforce an impression of Israel as a cowering and essentially passive society, thus spurring further violence. In sum: a fence may have utility as a tactical tool to save lives, but none as a basis for ending the conflict.

Palestinians Reap the "Rewards" of Terrorism: How Israelis have turned the current intifada into a complete disaster...for the Palestinians. (Daniel Pipes, April 20, 2004, FrontPageMagazine.com)
[S]haron’s tough policies have established that terrorism damages Palestinian interests even more than it does Israeli ones. This has led some analysts deeply hostile to Israel to recognize that the “second intifada” was a grievous error. Violence “just went haywire,” says Sari Nusseibeh, president of Al-Quds University. An “unmitigated disaster,” journalist Graham Usher calls it. A “crime against the Palestinian people,” adds an Arab diplomat.

After the execution of Hamas’s other leader, Ahmed Yassin, last month, sixty prominent Palestinians urged restraint in a newspaper ad, arguing that violence would provoke strong Israeli responses that would obstruct aspirations to build an independent “Palestine.” Instead, the signatories called for “a peaceful, wise intifada.”

Ordinary Palestinians, too, are drawing the salutary conclusion that murdering Israelis brings them no benefits. “We wasted three years for nothing, this uprising didn’t accomplish anything,” says Mahar Tarhir, 25, an aluminum-store owner. “Anger and disillusionment have replaced the fighting spirit that once propelled the Palestinian movement,” finds Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, a reporter for Knight Ridder.

As for Israelis, as early as July 2003 the military brass reached the conclusion that Israel was achieving victory. More sharply, Israeli analyst Asher Susser concluded in the Middle East Quarterly back then that the Palestinian effort to break the Israeli spirit through terror “has failed” and resorting to force “was a catastrophic mistake, the worst the Palestinians have made since 1948.”

And so we are arrived at the ideal moment to impose statehood on the Palestinians, a people fed up with the violence advocated by their "leadership" and desperate to get on with life. In retrospect, the President's declaration that the eventual map would contain two states, not just one, was obviously the beginning of the end of the conflict, not its low point at all.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 20, 2004 9:00 AM
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