Jewish World Review June 26, 2002 / 16 Tamuz, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Under increasing pressure to do something about the Middle East, the president of the United States has done what any realistic political leader under pressure would do about an intractable problem: He pretended to do something.
It was quite a challenge.
George W. Bush had to say little while speaking a lot. He had little room for maneuver while unveiling a Comprehensive Solution. His speech Monday required the verbal incoherence of an Eisenhower, the sage duplicity of a Kissinger and the innocent air of a Pollyanna.
The dictates of diplomacy require that those willing to be patient must appear impatient, demanding, pressing, in the lead. Action! Do something even if it's wrong! (And it probably will be.) But in a country and a world as dynamic as this one, even inaction -- especially inaction -- must be portrayed as bold leadership.
Knowing full well there is precious little good he can do just now -- indeed, that the present crisis may have stemmed in great part from a president of the United States having done entirely too much in the past - W. had to come up with an Action Plan. Or a speech that sounded like one.
So this president has suggested a new, reformed, provisional state of Palestine, which will be billed as something new and daring, but which is only a new term for what has always been missing in the frustrating equation that is the Middle East: a peaceful Palestinian state. Without such a state, the equation is unsolvable. For the war will not end until the terror does.
Remember land for peace? Once upon a time, like 1993, the Israelis were to get peace, the Palestinians land. It didn't work out that way. Neither side got what it wanted. Each side blames the other for not following through on its part of the bargain. But the basis of the eventual deal remains the same: The Palestinians will get their state when and only when it is declawed. For anyone who may be wondering, that is what Provisional State means.
There is nothing new about this proviso. Arab Palestinians could have had a state any time (in 1937, in 1947, in 1993) if they had been willing to settle for it instead of war. They still can.
But until that faraway day arrives, it is clear that, if the Israelis want even a semblance of security, they will have to reoccupy the West Bank and, soon enough, Gaza.
For almost two years, since Yasser Arafat walked away from Camp David to declare his latest intifada, Israeli's Ariel Sharon has resisted taking back the Palestinian territory that Israel surrendered under the Oslo Accords. Especially Gaza, which has been a hellhole since Samson's time. The Egyptians don't want it, either, any more than Jordan's king wants the West Bank back.
Now the Israelis realize they have little choice but to occupy those territories indefinitely, and do the job Yasser Arafat had promised to: wipe out the terrorists. The Israelis also realize the danger and soul-corruption that occupation breeds. That's why they've hesitated to move for so long, adopting only halfway, then three-quarters-way measures to assure their security. Now they've come to see that occupation is the worst of all possible alternatives -- except all the others.
As always, when his latest war collapses in chaos, Yasser Arafat promises peace. Now he says he's ready to accept the terms he turned down at Camp David, complete with a Palestinian state on the West Bank and in Gaza, plus half of Jerusalem. But the numerous details of a settlement have always been less important than the one essential condition for peace in the Middle East: the acceptance of the Jewish state's right to exist in peace -- an acceptance in more than the kind of words that only precede terrorist attacks.
The terms of a peace in the Holy Land have been easy enough to envision, and various commissions, studies, conferences and American presidents have done so over the years. George W. Bush is only the latest to lay out such a plan.
But so long as leaders like Yasser Arafat can sabotage peace, the way the Oslo Accords were systematically violated, talk of peace, like talk of a Palestinian state, will remain … provisional.
The current talk out of Washington about a Palestinian state comes with the proviso that it will have to be a reformed state -- a euphemism for an Arafatless state. And there is no realistic hope for that happy ending anytime soon.
At best, like the forest fires now sweeping through the American Southwest, the violence in the Mideast may be contained, but it will have to burn itself out before new growth can take root. In the meantime, to keep hope alive, this administration is simply waiting -- in the most dynamic, active, voluble way. All the diplomatic buzz may be necessary, even vaguely useful down the road, but let's not pretend it's anything new.
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