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Jewish World Review
July 22, 2004
/ 4 Menachem-Av, 5764
The intifadeh is over just listen
I was halfway through Friday dinner with a group of old friends in Tel Aviv when I noticed that something was missing. All evening, the topic of conversation had been a scandal involving a second-rate Israeli pol named Paritsky and his dealings with the electrical company. Where were the Palestinians?
In five visits to Israel since the fall of 2000, the intifadeh had been the invariable subject of dinner-table discussion. Suddenly, it went unmentioned. When I pointed this out, my friends shrugged. The intifadeh is so yesterday. Not that the Palestinians have stopped trying. Just days earlier, a bomb at a bus stop killed a soldier. It was the first attack in Tel Aviv in more than six months. My friends saw it as an aberration.
When Arafat unleashed the intifadeh four years ago, these same friends were far less sanguine. The only thing they knew for sure was that terrorism could not be defeated by military means. Only a political compromise (by Israel) would end the carnage.
They don't think that anymore. Under Ariel Sharon, Israel has put down the intifadeh the old-fashioned way by fighting back. Palestinians who accuse Israel of conducting state terrorism are right. Israel has indeed terrorized the terrorists into submission. The size and cost of the defeat is just now sinking in. The crowds torching Arafat's military installations are conducting their own version of a 9/11 commission.
Meanwhile, Israel is burning with a different kind of heat. The economy is going full-blast. Cranes and business startups are everywhere. Only the Palestinians are absent. Until the intifadeh, Gazans and West Bankers made good money there. Now their jobs are gone to foreign workers and advances in technology.
There is a self-confidence in Israel unlike anything I have seen since the Six-Day War. Israelis have discovered that they have the resources to wage war with whatever ruthlessness victory requires. That attitude includes the determination to complete the security barrier being constructed through the West Bank. The recent World Court ruling that the barrier violates international law was greeted in Tel Aviv with derisive contempt, and not only by hard-liners. The barrier saves lives. In a war, everything else is secondary.
Of course, winning the intifadeh doesn't mean that Israel is home free. The mullahs of Iran are trying to go atomic. Hezbollah reportedly is seeking chemical weapons. The Shin Bet is warning that Jewish fundamentalist terrorists may try to assassinate Sharon to stop the Gaza pullout. These are not threats to be taken lightly. Neither is the prospect of future attacks. Anxiety over national security is sure to remain the staple of dinner conversation.
Still, it's nice to get a change of menu once in a while. That's how I felt listening to my friends chew over the Paritsky affair and the depredations of the electrical company. Nobody said so, but it was a victory meal.
And it tasted delicious.
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