Saturday, March 02, 2002

War and Peace

Batala, a “refugee camp” suburb of Nablus, has been the source of several terrorist attacks on Israel, including the Sbarro Pizzeria bombing which killed 15 and the attack on a Bat Mitzvah in Hadera in which a Palestinian gunman entered and began mowing down guests at a family celebration. It is currently under the control of at least five Palestinian warlords. The Palestinian Authority actually attempted to enter the camp in 1999 and assert some control and was immediately expelled. The town is constructed in the haphazard fashion typical of these shanty towns with very narrow, crooked streets. Last week, an Israeli Merkava tank was destroyed when it went over an enormous mine, and it is assumed that the streets of these neighborhoods are similarly mined.

There has also been a great deal of nail-biting on sending foot soldiers into these areas because they will be exposed, easy targets in this sort of urban environment. On Wednesday, the Israeli Defense Forces began seizing tall Buildings around Balata, a Palestinian Suburb of Nablus. These buildings were to be used as observation posts and sniper nests for the operation that began on Thursday. The Army avoided the hazards of using the streets by entering the first house, and then blowing a hole in the wall to move to the next house, and then blowing a hole in the wall to move to the third house, etc. Occasionally, they have simply driven tanks straight through the walls. This is one of the first instances in which the various warlords have actually stood and fought instead of run away, so 15 terrorist gunmen were killed on Thursday, five on Friday, along with one Israeli soldier. The operation is continuing and will probably last into next week, as the army is still uncovering rocket, bomb, and mortar factories.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority gunmen opened fire on Gilo again, wounding four Israelis, and a suicide bomber just blew himself up a few hours ago amongst a group of Jews leaving synagogue, killing at least five, including a one year old baby.

As one of the strange consequences of Israel’s backward parliamentary system and national unity government, while reality moves closer to all-out war, the “political solution” rhetoric is moving full speed ahead. Arafat’s demands seem to be closely obeying Moore’s Law, i.e. they double every eighteen months. Eighteen months ago, Arafat was demanding 100,000 Arabs be allowed to settle in Israel as part of a final deal. He is now demanding that, “Only 200,000 refugees,” will “return.” The more moderate Sari Nussebiah, who is now being touted as the most reasonable Palestinian alive, is now making territorial demands inside pre-1967 Israel. Peres continues abasing himself and accepting any and every offer made by the Palestinians and their European Allies, so they keep making more and more demands.

Then, out of the blue, like a bolt of lightning from the heavens, the “Saudi Plan” appeared. New York Times Editorialist Tom Friedman was on a visit to Saudi Arabia and was discussing the violence with crown Prince Abdullah, the second in command but really de-facto dictator of his country. Friedman suggested that Abdullah and the Arabs should offer to call of their Jihad against Israel in exchange for a full Israeli withdrawal to the holy “Green Line” and a voluntary self-ethnic-cleansing of all Jewish communities on the other side of that Green Line. “Why, funny you should mention it,” said Abdullah, “because I have the text of exactly that speech sitting in my desk drawer.” He then told Friedman that he was just about to give the speech, but then Sharon ruined it by his brutal oppression of Palestinian stone-throwers. It’s like some western tourist walking into the bazaar and pointing to a five-dollar tin pot and asking, “Is this an exotic, ancient relic?” to which the storekeeper responds, “Oh, why, yes it is, and I will give it to you for the paltry sum of $1,000,” at which point the naive tourist races off to the nearest ATM machine before someone else gets a hold of his “find.” In this case Friedman, playing the naive tourist, immediately ran off and printed and editorial in the New York Times to publicize the plan.

Friedman has been around the block a couple of times, he covered the civil war in Beirut, the first Intifada in Israel, so it’s nearly unbelievable that he could be so incredibly stupid as to believe such a thing, given the history of the region. Arab governments aligned with the United States have, for the last quarter century, been trying to keep the Middle East in slow-burn. It’s all part of a delicate balance, in which the dictators, needing an external enemy to justify their oppression, try to keep themselves at war with Israel, but in order not to incur the political wrath of the United States or, worse, the military wrath of Israel, they act to cool things down whenever events begin to move too close to peace. During Camp David II, in which Arafat was offered a viable Palestinian State, it was Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who clearly told Arafat he would lose Arab support if he made any compromises on Jerusalem, but it was also Hosni Mubarak who later drafted a potential cease-fire, essentially a rehash of the American Tenet agreement, along with Jordan, to try to cool things down. Throughout the Intifada, there have been several totally unrealistic offers made to Israel, including an offer by Syria to “enter into negotiations” if Israel first gave away the entire Golan Heights and now the Saudi offer. Sharon simply called Abdullah’s bluff by saying, “Sure, so let’s get together and talk about it.” It’s a perfectly reasonable request to which Abdullah must say no. Meeting Sharon at this point would be as unhealthy for an Arab despot as drinking a gallon of bleach because his own people would immediately kill him.

This plan will fail like every other plan so far because successful treaties, plans, and arrangements do not alter history or end wars, they only formalize reality. Egypt and Jordan did not sign peace with Israel until they determined that it was absolutely impossible for them to defeat Israel militarily. Germany and Japan did not surrender to the Allies until after they had been militarily defeated. In order for Israel to withdraw to the 1967 cease-fire lines, which is clearly not enough to appease the Palestinians in any case, Israel would have to be first militarily defeated, which it is not. In order for the Palestinians to stop attacking Israel, they first have to be militarily defeated, which has not yet happened. All of these plans and cease-fire arrangements are utterly meaningless until there is a basic shift in the Arab mindset, or a total surrender of the nationalist ideal on the part of the Israelis. Since the Arabs, and later the Palestinians have been on the losing side of every war since 1948, it’s better than even odds that the Palestinians will crack before Israel does.

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