Jewish World Review Jan. 7, 2003 / 4 Shevat, 5763

"It Was a Mistake to Use Arms"

By Daniel Pipes | The Palestinian campaign of terrorism continues, with twenty-two persons murdered in Tel Aviv Sunday. And every day, on average, without counting minor incidents involving rocks and firebombs, the Palestinians launch over ten attacks on Israelis.

Which makes this a particularly apt moment to review my assessment of a year ago, that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's tough response is the right one and that it will cause the Palestinians to give up on violence.

To begin with, while the violence continues, it has diminished during 2002; the year's first quarter saw 50 percent more attacks than the fourth quarter and well over twice as many fatalities.

More significant, however, are the many signs pointing to a realization among Palestinians that adopting violence has been a monstrous mistake. What the Associated Press calls a "slowly swelling chorus of Palestinian leaders and opinion-makers" is expressing disillusion with the poverty, anarchy, detention, injury and death brought by 27 months of violence.

Mahmoud Abbas, the number-two Palestinian leader after Yasir Arafat, concedes "it was a mistake to use arms ... and to carry out attacks inside Israel." Abdel Razzak al-Yahya, the so-called interior minister, denounces suicide bombings against Israel as "murders for no reason," demands an end to "all forms of Palestinian violence" and wants it replaced it with civil resistance. Bethlehem mayor Hanna Nasser finds that the use of arms did no good and insists that the Palestinian struggle "has to be a peaceful one."

Other developments confirm this sense of dismay and a willingness to rethink:

Perhaps the most affecting sign of a change came last month, when a self-described "heartbroken" Palestinian father took the occasion of the death of his son, a leading terrorist, to launch an unprecedented appeal to Israelis "to open a new page with the Palestinian people and to achieve peace based on mutual respect and justice."

Israelis are beginning to note the change on the Palestinian side. Ephraim Halevy, former head of the Mossad, has commented on "the buds of Palestinian recognition" of the mistake in turning to violence. The chief of Israel's Ground Forces Command, Yiftah Ron-Tal, went further and in November predicted within months "a decisive victory" for Israel.

The Bush administration should take two steps to speed this process along: permit Israel to respond as it sees best and stop bestowing undeserved gifts on the Palestinians (the latest: promises of a state in 2003). The sooner Palestinians realize how counterproductive their violence is, the sooner they will end it.

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JWR contributor Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and the author of several books, most recently Militant Islam Reaches America. Comment by clicking here.


© 2002, Daniel Pipes