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Jewish World Review Oct. 30, 2000 / 1 Mar-Cheshvan, 5761

Mort Zuckerman

Mort Zuckerman
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Arafat's bloody cynicism -- THE WORLD mourns the death of the Oslo peace process. It did not die of natural causes. It was killed–killed not by some unknown crazed fanatic but by a Nobel Peace Prize winner and one of its godfathers. Yasser Arafat masterminded the violence that has destroyed the dream that two antagonistic peoples could live together. The dream rested on mutual trust, exemplified by the Israelis' yielding land for peace. Now nobody in Israel trusts Arafat. He has convinced the most dovish that he is a pathological liar, a charlatan, and an impostor. As another Nobel peace laureate, Elie Wiesel, said, the doves "finally recognize Yasser Arafat for what he is: ignorant, devious, and unworthy of trust."

How heartbreaking now to recall the famous handshake on the White House lawn and the moving words of Yitzhak Rabin: "Enough of blood and tears. Enough." But it was not enough for Arafat. He never renounced violence. A partner for peace does not set the region ablaze because this or that demand was not met. A partner for peace does not teach hatred, bigotry, and antisemitism to schoolchildren; he does not have his news media incite against his ostensible peace partner; he does not call for a jihad and celebrate suicide bombers; he does not tell Arab audiences the peace process was a subterfuge, citing a precedent set by Mohammed's tribe, the Meccans, who signed a peace treaty and later went to war; he does not talk of victory over the Zionists, praising holy war or jihad while wearing a military uniform; he does not see the murder of Israelis as a cause for elation; he does not deny the existence of Jewish holy sites known to the whole world; he does not stand silently while other Jewish holy sites are destroyed; in short, he does not betray the solemn pact he himself made at Oslo.

Suffer the children. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the ultimate Palestinian goal is not just the establishment of the state of Palestine but the destruction of the State of Israel. Arafat has released numerous Hamas prisoners, including some involved in suicide bombings, from Palestinian Authority jails. This can only mean a re-escalation of terrorism to bring pressure on Israel. It follows his cynical use of children as pawns in this new war, on the evident calculation that television images of mortally wounded youngsters strengthen Arafat's political position. But again, as Wiesel said, "Why does Chairman Arafat not protect them but instead use them as shields for adults throwing stones, and worse?" Arafat could end the violence. He has 30,000 policemen and a dozen security services under his control, seven times the number of Hamas and Islamic Jihad members.

What is Arafat about? A leading defense analyst in Israel, Ze'ev Schiff, believes that his purpose is to bring Israel to its knees through an "ongoing, low-level war that combines massive terrorism, guerrilla warfare, and the international media." He knows Israel is hobbled by a Catch-22. The more damage its superior military power inflicts, the more it suffers in world opinion. The Palestinians' weakness is their strength; defeat for them means victory; the more Arafat suffers, the more he receives, especially in the Arab world. After a Palestinian mob joyously murdered two innocent young Israelis, mutilated their bodies, and dragged them through the streets for incineration, Arafat failed to utter one word of condemnation. Even so, some people in the media and politics contrived to blame it all on the Israelis–as Ralph Nader did last week in a glaring example of the left's anti-Israeli prejudice.

Now Arafat has widened the conflict. It is no longer a national struggle just between two peoples. It is an Israeli-Arab conflict on the verge of becoming a Jewish-Muslim conflict, which will make everything much more difficult to resolve.

What is Israel to do? Barak is suggesting unilateral withdrawal in which Israel would establish borders and incorporate the land it needs for security to protect the main Jewish communities it has established, while bringing the outlying Jewish settlers back into territories under Israeli control. This would ultimately lead to the establishment of a quasi state for the Palestinians–short of what was offered at Camp David, at least until there is a new Palestinian leadership that would recognize Israel as a legitimate state and acknowledge that the Jewish people are indigenous to this land and not a bunch of trespassers just passing through.

JWR contributor Mort Zuckerman is editor-in-chief and publisher of U.S. News and World Report. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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© 2000, Mortimer Zuckerman