Friday, June 18, 2004
While no one was looking, something historic happened in the Middle East. The Palestinian intifada is over, and the Palestinians have lost.
So writes Charles Krauthammer this morning in a bracing essay. He's right.
Arafat's war, launched in September 2000, had grandiose aims. At Camp David that summer, Israel had offered the Palestinians virtually everything, including almost all of the occupied territories, evacuation from settlements, sharing of Jerusalem and their own country. Yassir Arafat rejected that offer on the grounds that it did not include a right of Palestinians to return to metropolitan Israel, a demand that everybody knows is a non-starter for even the most liberal Israeli. Indeed, Arafat wanted all of that without having to make peace with Israel, so he launched the intifada, hoping to bring it home by force.
Four years and thousands of deaths later, the Palestinians are poor and exhausted and Israel, slowly but surely, is returning to what passes for normal in the Jewish state. As Krauthammer points out, violence has dwindled -- from a suicide bombing every three days at the peak two years ago, to none in the last three months -- and Israel's economy is growing again. The restaurants and nightclubs are full again, and peace returns. And the Palestinians are out of moves, betrayed by their leadership.
The Palestinians are a mystery to me, I must confess. They could have had a relatively open border, lots of trade, and the IDF out of their lives. Instead they chose war against the most determined country on the planet.
For my part, I have wondered for years why the Palestinian Arabs did not pursue a strategy of non-violent civil disobedience. Whatever one thinks of actual Isreali conduct, Israel is a democracy that perceives itself -- usually, although not always, with justification -- as the most righteous actor in a very dangerous neighborhood. If years ago Arafat, or some leader with less blood on his hands, had led the Palestinians in a massive, unarmed, peaceful "walk to the sea," what would Israel have done? Kill them all? If the Israelis had been inclined to do that, they would have done it already, and in any case such brutality would have destroyed the soul of the country, shamed Jews everywhere, and destroyed Israel's reputation with American voters. If the Palestinian Arabs on both sides of the border had launched a massive general strike, sleeping in the roads and peacefully interfering with the ordinary functioning of the Isreali economy, how quickly could they have forced Israel to the table and achieved their reasonable objectives? I think very quickly.
Of course, the Palestinian Arabs did not pursue this strategy, because their leaders aren't really interested in peace. They want to kill all the Jews.
After we paid for our kids summer camp for teenager we found it tough to recover! I totally agree with you!