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How to End It
What passes for the great Middle East debate in Washington centers upon whether the Bush administration is "doing enough." The president is criticized for not "engaging" in Middle East diplomacy. The fact that the last such presidential engagementЎЄthe Camp David debacle of July 2000ЎЄled directly to the worst fighting and the worst Arab-Israeli crisis in 20 years seems not to deter the critics. Mindlessly, the call to "do more"
What does "doing" mean? If anything, it means sending high-level people over to jawbone. But we know the futility of this approach. The Clinton administration wooed and cooed Yasser Arafat for eight years. He was invited to the White House more often than any leader in the entire world.
And what did America get in return for this diplomatic largesse? More
leverage with Arafat? Precisely the opposite. Clinton's obsessive
intervention and eternally open door showed Arafat that there was no price
to be paid for either humiliating the United States, as he did at Camp
David, or plunging the region into crisis, as he did weeks later when he
began his now year-long guerrilla war against Israel.
The Bush administration, to its credit, has fallen into the "doing
something" trap only once, when President Bush sent CIA director George
Tenet in June to broker a cease-fire that never took. He then sent
secretary of state Colin Powell to bolster the fictional cease-fire even as
it collapsed around him. After that acutely embarrassing exercise in
futility, Powell left. Wisely, he has not returned.
The other notion about "doing something," emanating mostly from the
Europeans, is to send some kind of international force, including
Americans, to observe and peacekeep.
We have been here before, but no one seems to remember. Everyone remembers
that 241 American servicemen were massacred in Beirut during the last
American peacekeeping operation (as were 58 French paratroopers, killed in
a similar suicide bombing). No one remembers how we got there.
We went there to rescue Arafat and protect Palestinians. Here is how it
happened: After years of being attacked by the Palestine Liberation
Organization from Lebanon, Israel invaded in 1982. Yasser Arafat and his
PLO soon found themselves surrounded in Beirut by Israeli forces. Having
overplayed his hand, Arafat asked for rescue. U.S., French, and Italian
forces were sent to evacuate Arafat and his troops to Tunisia. The rescuers
then withdrew. They were shortly sent back, however, after Christian
Lebanese massacred Palestinians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla.
The Westerners returned to protect the Palestinians. They stayed to pacify
the region and became sitting ducks for Islamic terrorists. After the
French and Americans were massacred, they all finally sailed away.
Sound familiar? Arafat initiates violence, openly provoking an Israeli
military reaction. Facing massive counterforce, he calls for international
peacekeepers to save the Palestinians. How did it end last time? Badly.
Arafat is the master of bringing in others to save him from wars that he
starts. And he wants to do it again. For the West to fall into that trap is
truly insane. But such is the anti-Israel feeling in Europe and the Arab
world that the idea has gained much currencyЎЄso much, in fact, that the
Bush administration has had to fend it off, single-handed, in the Security
As it should. An observer or peacekeeping force would be a deathtrap for
outsiders. It would do nothing to end the current guerrilla war. It would
only fortify the Palestinians, giving them a wall of international
protection behind which to take shelter as they prepare yet more terrorist
attacks within Israel. How would international peacekeepers stop
Palestinian suicide bombers from infiltrating, when Israelis, who live
there and know every nook and cranny of the place, cannot?
II. The Oslo Illusion
What then to do? The beginning of wisdom is to understand how we got here.
The premise of Oslo was "land for peace." It is now clear that Arafat's
intention from the beginning was "land for war"ЎЄto use whatever West Bank
and Gaza territory he would be granted in any "peace" as a base for waging
war against Israel proper.
"I don't believe that Arafat ever really gave up violence as a tool to
achieving his objectives," outgoing ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk
confessed in his parting interview with the Jerusalem Post, published on
July 6. It took Indyk and the rest of the American "peace team" eight
yearsЎЄand oceans of bloodЎЄto figure this out. This is diplomatic
malpractice that verges on manslaughter. Nonetheless, the fact that these
congenital Panglosses have themselves finally come to this conclusionЎЄafter
constantly, vociferously, belligerently maintaining otherwiseЎЄmakes it
unanimous: That pledge of nonviolence, made in Arafat's famous September
1993 letter to Yitzhak Rabin in the Oslo accords, the foundation of the
whole "peace process," was a fraud and deception from the very beginning.
Oslo's basic premise was even more fundamentally violated. After all, it
was not "land for cease-fire"; it was "land for peace." Meaning, not just
nonviolence, but recognition by the Palestinians and the Arab world of the
legitimacy of Israel.
We now know, eight sorry years later, that the PLO's recognition of Israel
was just paper, without an ounce of true intentЎЄa token to be withdrawn as
soon as Israel had exhausted its grant of extraordinary and irreversible
concessions. Having outlived its usefulness, the "recognition" has been
openly and boldly repudiated.
Not only do the Palestinians speak candidly to their own public and the
world of taking all of Palestine and destroying Israel; not only has the
Arab world broken the few low-level relations it opened during the Oslo
interlude; not only does the Arab League threaten to revive the Arab
boycott; not only do even pro-Western Arab states, like Saudi Arabia and
Egypt, talk of making war on Israel again; but even the basest of
anti-Semitic calumnies, the "Zionism is racism" canard, has been
resurrectedЎЄat a U.N. conference on racism, no less. The mask of
"recognition" is off.
Again, the self-deception by Israeli doves and American foreign policy
elites is, in retrospect, simply staggering. From the very
beginning, Palestinian officials flaunted their nonacceptance of Israel and
their disdain for the "peace" they had signed. Within months of Oslo, in a
speech in South Africa, Arafat analogized Oslo to the treaty that Mohammed
signed with the Quraysh. It proved very temporary and soon led to the
tribe's final conquest by Mohammed's forces. At every opportunity, Arafat
insisted that the Oslo peace accords were only a means, and that if they
did not get him what he wanted, he would revert to "other means."
By the end of the eight years, the Palestinians were no longer speaking in
code or by analogy. At a conference earlier this year in Lebanon, that
much-celebrated Palestinian "moderate" Faisal Husseini (who died of a heart
attack shortly thereafter) explained why the Palestinians had accepted only
a relatively small amount of land with Oslo. Not in order to make peace
with Israel, but, on the contrary, in order to establish a territorial base
from which to fight and destroy Israel. The objective, he said openly, has
always been "Palestine from the river to the sea." Meaning from the river
Jordan to the Mediterranean: no Israel.
The irony is that there is nothing new here. This is precisely the program
laid out by the Palestinians in the 1974 Cairo "Phased Plan." In it, the
Palestine National Council decided to accept any piece of land within
Greater Palestine as Phase One, from which to carry on Phase Two, the war
for the extinction of Israel.
III. Arafat's War
We are now at Phase Two. This is the war Arafat has coveted all his life:
the war against Israel from within Palestine. He tried first to make war
from Jordan and was expelled in 1970. He then tried to make war from
Lebanon and was expelled in 1982. And then in 1993, the miracle: Israel
itself, in a fit of reckless high-mindedness unparalleled in the annals of
diplomacy, brought him back to Palestine, gave him control of 98 percent of
the Palestinian population, armed his 40,000 "police" (i.e. army), and
granted him international legitimacy, foreign aid, and the territorial base
of every city in the West Bank and Gaza.
Yet there are still observers in the West who remain puzzled by Arafat's
war. Taken in by Oslo for the entire eight years, the New York Times's Tom
Friedman, for example, now rationalizes the collapse of his illusions by
characterizing Arafat's war as senseless and self-defeating, "a grievous
error" and an "idiotic uprising."
This analysis is sheer nonsense. The war is the war Arafat always wanted.
He has just seen Israel, facing guerrilla war in Lebanon, abjectly
surrender and withdraw unilaterally. And now, after a year of his own
guerrilla war within Palestine, the balance of forces with Israel has
shifted dramatically in his favor.
Israel is dazed and reelingЎЄeconomically, diplomatically, and politically.
Above all, psychologically. Israelis are afraid. They are afraid to send
their children to the mall. They are afraid to go to the movies. They are
afraid to drive the open road. And even worse, they are demoralized. They
have lost hope. The illusion that assuaging the Palestinians and granting
them their own state would bring peace is shattered. The hope behind that
illusionЎЄto demilitarize Israeli society, to relax its isolation, to live
without fearЎЄhas utterly evaporated. Israelis see nothing but indefinite
struggle, continued bloodletting, for the endless future.
Military reserve service has been extended. Tourism, a mainstay of the
economy, is dead. Unemployment is at the highest level in Israeli history.
The United States has issued an advisory for its citizens not to visit the
area. People are so afraid to go to Israel that British Air, Swissair, KLM,
and Lufthansa forbid their pilots who fly there to stay overnight.
Israel is not just suffering, it is isolated. The vilification of Israel,
temporarily moderated during the Oslo interlude, has resumed full force at
the United Nations, the Arab League, and in Europe. Egypt and Jordan have
withdrawn their ambassadors. The tentative ties Israel had established with
moderate Arab states like Morocco, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates have
been cut. At the Durban conference on racism, dozens of countries will join
not only to brand Zionism as racism but to devalue the Holocaust by
deliberately using the word to apply to a myriad of other national tragedies.
Three Israeli soldiers are kidnapped by Lebanese terrorists in a raid that
brazenly crosses the U.N.-drawn frontier between Lebanon and Israel. Not
only is the world silent. But the U.N. conceals film of the kidnapping from
Israel, the victim countryЎЄfilm that might have helped it find its soldiers
or track down the perpetrators.
Israel stands alone, except for the United States. Yet even the United
States speaks the language of moral equivalence in the face of a war begun
by the Palestinians after rejecting a generous peace. For eight years, the
Clinton administration urged Israel to take "risks for peace" with solemn
assurance that the United States would stand behind it. "Today I come to
Israel to fulfill a pledge I made," declared President Clinton in Jerusalem
in December 1998, " ... to reaffirm America's determination to stand with
you as you take risks for peace." Israel took those risks, giving Arafat
his armed mini-state and adding steadily to its territory under relentless
pressure from secretary of state Madeleine Albright. And now? Terrorists
attack innocents outside a Tel Aviv discotheque, in a Jerusalem pizzeria,
in a Haifa cafeЎЄand even the highly restrained, entirely bloodless Israeli
responses are denounced by the State Department as "provocative,"
"escalation," and "disproportionate."
Arafat's war serves an even larger purpose, however. Apart from directly
damaging Israel's economy and morale, apart from driving wedges between
Israel and its allies, the war has helped radicalize the Palestinian
people, embitter them against Israel, and mobilize them for a long, bloody,
The suicide bombings and drive-by shootings have forced Israel to impose
strict security measures. With every act of Israeli retaliation, with every
long wait at a security checkpoint, with every day of economic hardship
made worse by the closures, popular anger at Israel is stoked. It is the
classic dialectic of guerrilla war. Whatever voices for peace there might
have been among the Palestinians have been silenced: Many have been driven
out (there has been an especially large emigration of Christians under
duress), some have been radicalized, others executed as "collaborators." As
demonstrated by Mao and Ho and countless other guerrilla leaders,
revolutionary war isolates and eliminates the opposition. Those
Palestinians wishing minimal civil relations with Israel live in fear for
When Arafat arrived eight years ago, no one knew what political direction
the Palestinian population in the territories would take. Now the direction
is clear. Oslo assumed that Arafat would prepare his people for peace.
Instead, he has trained them for "popular war," down to the children who
are indoctrinated with the glories of "martyrdom" and bloodlust from their
very earliest days. (A video clip repeatedly shown on Palestinian TV
features a children's song with the lyric, "How pleasant is the smell of
martyrs, how pleasant the smell of land, the land enriched by the blood,
the blood pouring out of a fresh body.") Arafat's war has secured the
future: a new generation, raised on hate, mobilized and ready to carry the
fight long after Arafat and his generation are gone.
Why should he stop? Every day is a victory. Every Palestinian death creates
a martyr and a rallying cry. Every Israeli death sows more fear and despair
in the enemy. Irrational? To western observers whose notion of human
achievement ends with a good latte, a round of golf, and high-speed
Internet access, this war seems insane. To a man who has dedicated 40 years
of his life to molding his people to refight (and reverse) Israel's War of
Independence, it makes perfect sense. Given what he has achieved in the
last 11 months, why would he stop?
IV. Sharon's Way
Arafat won't. Which is why he must be stopped. Israel cannot go on like
this. No country of 6 million people can sustain one Columbine massacre
after another. (Think of how a single Columbine massacre traumatized a
country of 280 million.) Arafat's war will give rise to Israel's war, a
massive conventional attack on Arafat and his entire political-military
infrastructure. That response is coming. Maybe not today, but tomorrow for
For today, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon has been temporizing,
casting about for a strategy. First, he tried moderation. After the
Dolphinarium disco massacre in which a suicide bomber murdered 21 youths
and maimed dozens of others, Sharon did nothing. Instead, basking in
international acclaim for his forbearance, he accepted the Tenet
cease-fire. It proved worthless.
Less acclaimed is his attempt at counter-terrorism. The policy of targeting
terrorist ringleaders has been called "assassination" and widely denounced.
These denunciations are the epitome of hypocrisy. What country would not go
after those who were sending bombs into the middle of its cities? In 1998,
President Clinton ordered cruise missile attacks on Usama bin Laden's bases
in Afghanistan. The obvious objective was to kill him. Or failing that, to
kill enough of his followers to deter or slow down their operations. And
when in 1986 the United States found Libya responsible for a terrorist
bombing that killed two American soldiers in a Berlin discothЁЁque, it did
not send Qaddafi a subpoena. It bombed his tent.
Killing those who arise to kill you is a universal and perfectly legitimate
tactic of war. But legitimacy does not guarantee efficacy. In 1943, the
United States deliberately shot down the plane carrying Admiral Yamamoto,
architect of the attack on Pearl Harbor. That did not stop the Pacific war.
Nor will Sharon's antiterrorist "assassination" campaign stop this war.
After all, the entire campaign of terrorism, suicide bombings, drive-by
shootings, mortar attacks, gun battles, and ambushes is carried out under
the umbrella and protection, often the direction, of Arafat and the
Palestinian Authority. When he wants to shut down the violence, he does.
How do we know? Look what happens when he is momentarily frightened and
trying to avert an expected massive Israeli response, as after the
Dolphinarium massacre. The violence miraculously abatesЎЄon his command and
that of his eight separate security services.
To go after the terrorist ringleaders is certainly justified and might be
marginally effective. But it misses the point. This is Arafat's war. The
only approach is to go to the source.
What does that mean? It means doing to him what King Hussein did in 1970
when Arafat tried to destroy both the king and his Hashemite state: defeat
him and expel him.
V. The War to Come
The diplomats prattle on that there is no military solution to this
conflict. They were undoubtedly saying the same to King Hussein in 1970.
Well, we do know that there is no diplomatic solution. Pressure from the
United States, such as putting the PLO on the terrorist list, might force
some tactical retreats or occasional cease-fires. But the root of the
problem is intent. And Arafat's intentions have been laid bare for all to see.
So long as one could imagine him as a peace partner, simply wanting a
better deal but ready in the end to accept a Jewish state living
side-by-side with Palestine, one could imagine needing him. But Arafat has
not wavered from the unbroken Palestinian tradition of rejecting
compromise. In 1947, when the Palestinians were offered a state
side-by-side with a Jewish state, they rejected it in favor of a war of
extermination, a war that failed. In 1978, they were offered negotiations
and autonomy after the Camp David peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.
The PLO rejected the offer root and branch.
In 1993 in the Oslo accords, Arafat was offered recognition,
self-government, and an end to occupation. The overture culminated in Ehud
Barak's astonishing July 2000 offer of a Palestinian state with its capital
in a shared Jerusalem. Arafat did not just turn that down, he never made a
counter-offer. His counter-offer was war.
Arafat is not a peace partner. He is an obstacle to peace. And until he and
the Palestinian Authority are removed, there is no hope for anything other
than endless "war until victory," as Arafat assures his people almost daily.
Eventually, and inevitably, Israel will have to launch and fight its war.
It will have to launch a massive lightning strike on the Palestinian
Authority. Every element of Arafat's police state infrastructure will have
to be destroyed: headquarters and commanders of his personal security
services, police stations, weapons depots, training camps, communications
and propaganda facilities, including radio, TV, and government-controlled
newspapers. At the same time, Israel will have to strike and destroy the
headquarters and leaders of Arafat's most deadly allies, Hamas and Islamic
Jihad. Israel knows where they are. But Israel has been reluctant to invade
to seize and destroy. Eventually it will. Perhaps not after the next
nail-bomb massacre; but after the one after that.
Who will then rule the Palestinians? Perhaps it will be chaos, but chaos is
preferable to the current unholy alliance of Arafat's Palestinian Authority
and the Islamic terrorists. Chaos will yield new leadership. That
leadership, having seen the devastation and destruction wrought by Israel
in response to Arafat's unyielding belligerence, might be inclined to
To have that effect, the Israeli strike will have to be massive and
overwhelming. And it will have to be quick. The Arab states will be in the
Security Council within hours, calling for the world to restrain Israel
from trying to win a war that it did not start and did not want. The
pressure on the United States will be enormous. But it must give Israel the
few days it needs to disarm and defeat Arafat.
Of one thing we can be certain. Israel will not stay to rule. It has no
intention of occupying Palestinian cities and people. The whole point of
the Oslo experiment, and the terrible risks Israel undertook in the name of
peace, was to stop being an occupying power and to give the Palestinians
self-government and dignity. Israel will withdraw.
But because the fate and political direction of the Palestinians will
remain uncertain, Israel must then take one supreme protective measure:
enforce a separation between Palestinian and Israeli populations, until the
Palestinians decide they actually want to live in openness and peace with
the Jewish state. That means erecting a fence separating Israel and
Palestinian territory. A largely overlooked fact in the current bloodshed
is that not a single suicide bomber has come from Gaza. Why? Because there
is a wall between Gaza and Israel. One can lob mortars over it, but sending
suicide bombers through it is very difficult.
Jews are no lovers of walls. And this wall will be an admission of a great
historic failureЎЄthe failure to find a genuine partner for peace among the
Palestinians. Nonetheless, the wall will need to be built. And it will need
to remain in place until a Palestinian leadership arises willing to sign a
real peace, accept the Jewish state, and forswear violence.
One final element. Under cover of war, Israel will need to abandon and
evacuate its more far-flung settlements. To do so today would be
disastrous. It would reward Palestinian violence and vindicate the
Hezbollah model of making guerrilla war to force Israel into unilateral
Some settlements must be abandoned, but only in the context of an Israeli
war that reshapes the landscape by removing Arafat and the PLO, enforcing
separation, and defining the new border between the Jewish and Palestinian
states. The border must be rational: defensible for Israel, livable for the
Palestinians. It cannot meander through every nook and valley of Judea and
Strike, expel, separate, and evacuate. All within, probably, three to four
days, at which time the world will have forced Israel to stop. Will the
current Israeli government attempt this? That is unclear. On the one hand,
the structure of the government militates against it. Sharon is locked in a
national unity government with the very Labor doves who brought on the
catastrophe of Oslo and feel the need to justify that folly by making yet
more peace agreements with Arafat.
On the other hand, no country can tolerate the bloodshed daily inflicted on
Israel by Arafat's war. At some point either this government will act, or
it will fall and a new government will do what needs to be done.
Israel will, of course, be accused of creating a ghetto around the
Palestinians. The victimizer cries foul again. For 34 years, since it came
into possession of the West Bank (in another war it never sought), Israel
has offered the Palestinians open borders, open traffic, open commerce.
Why, within days of the conquest of Jerusalem in 1967, Israel returned the
Muslim holy places at the Al Aqsa Mosque to Muslim authority. It tried to
erase the Green Line between Israel and the territories, allowing
Palestinians to work within Israel. And look at the Oslo accords. They
groan with dozens of clauses inserted at Israel's insistence about joint
cooperationЎЄeconomic, environmental, educational, industrial. The list is
endless, idealistic, generous, and, of course, delusional: a one-handed
Arafat never had any intention of creating this New Middle East of
civilized societies living side by side. Israel offered it, and what did it
get in return? War. Neighbors who broke out in dance and song upon news of
the massacre of innocents at the Jerusalem Sbarro.
Against such an enemy, there are only two choices. The status quo of
endless guerrilla war, Arafat's war. Or Israel's war: attack, followed by
evacuation and separation.
The choice is clear. It is only a matter of time.
С уважением Андрей!
Истинный патриотизм, как и истинная любовь, никогда о себе не кричит. (с) Б. Акунин.