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Jewish World Review July 31, 2000 / 28 Tamuz, 5760

Cal Thomas

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Down from the mountain --
IN THE END, Israel may owe its continued existence to Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat, who refused to accept the unprecedented compromises (some would say giveaways) offered by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Those concessions, if accepted, would have effectively ended Israel's ability to defend itself against insurrection from within and invasion from without. As one Middle East commentator put it, "The maximum Israel can give is less than the minimum the Palestinians will take.''

Hand-wringers on the Israeli and American left actually acknowledged for the first time that Arafat was the stumbling block to an agreement. But this will be spun into an understanding that he could not share sovereignty over Jerusalem with Israel, though Barak reportedly was willing to cut a deal, despite his pledge to leave the city "undivided.''

The U.S. government continues to believe, wrongly, that throwing "aid packages,'' including a proposed $35 million "scholarship'' program for "deserving'' West Bank and Gaza students wishing to study in the United States, will somehow mollify ancient Arab hatreds of Jews and Arabs' divine commission to rid the region of infidels and reoccupy all of the land.

The real action last week wasn't at Camp David. It was in Jerusalem where, during Friday prayers at the Al Aqsa Mosque, the sermonizer portrayed the United States as an enemy of Islam and not an advocate of peace: "Isn't the U.S. in a real state of war with Muslims? Isn't the U.S. responsible for Muslim disasters in Somalia, in Sudan, in Afghanistan, in Indonesia and other parts of the Muslim world?'' And then he got to the true objectives of the Arab and Palestinian side: "In Islam there is no difference between the land that was occupied in 1967 and the land that was occupied in 1948. Both are Islamic land that (is) occupied by Jews and should be liberated.''

This is why negotiations with Arafat mean nothing so long as he and his colleagues continue to teach, preach and act as if all of the land belongs to them and that any non-Muslin has no right to be there. How does one "negotiate'' with a person who holds such a position? As far as can be determined from information coming out of Camp David, it was Barak who offered huge concessions, but it was Arafat who wouldn't move an inch.

The secular and religious left in the United States, in Israel and at the New York Times continues to feast on the fiction that peace is a matter of process and that what Palestinian leaders and Arabs believe is of no consequence. Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emerged from exile, brought about by a politically motivated investigation of what he did with gifts presented to him while in office, to remind people that land equals security. "We hear regrettably of the intent to give up the Jordan Valley,'' said Netanyahu in a televised speech. "But control of the Jordan Valley is vital for securing Israel's eastern front. This is precisely what makes Israel a country 80 kilometers wide and not a statelet of 10 kilometers. A country with a width of a few kilometers is one that cannot survive in the long haul.''

As for the "refugees'' the Palestinian side wants to be allowed to return, Netanyahu said there would be a "flood that would endanger the foundations of the state.'' Why do so many blind themselves to this? The evidence is there. It seems they prefer the fiction that peace is possible with those who take orders from Allah, who wants all infidels dead. That's what they say in their sermons and teach in their classrooms and say on their television and write in their newspapers. Why won't we believe them? Because there are peace prizes to be won and legacies to be written.

As long as the formula is "land for peace,'' Israel will give up land but never get peace. If the formula is wrong, the resolution can never be right. Israel had better be ready for the next war, which may come as soon as Arafat's planned Sept. 13 declaration of a Palestinian state.

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