Just another day in Israel

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Just another day in Israel

Each time the two sides talk, someone throws a rock and the peace process is off


FOR 10 months, West Asia has seen unrelenting violence. Since then, the man the Palestinians claim started it all at the Al-Aqsa mosque is now prime minister. Since then, Ariel Sharon has entered more than a mosque. His army, for the first time since the territories were given over, is now establishing outposts inside Palestinian-controlled areas of Gaza to contain the Palestinian intifada.

Last month, an initial Israeli move into the Beit Hanoun area of the Gaza Strip brought an unusually stern rebuke from Washington and the Israeli units were rapidly withdrawn. According to the BBC, however, since then such incursions have become commonplace and a clear pattern has been established. The events in between may shed light on the why of it. On August 9 and 15 Israel saw two Hamas-led suicide attacks, the first of which killed 15 people.

The Israelis are fighting a low-intensity war with Palestine in which Palestine is the sworn enemy and no longer a negotiating partner. Israeli helicopters have consistently, if not always accurately, hit Palestinian security targets in the northern Gaza Strip.

The current Israeli-Palestinian conflict has more than 10 months of work at stake. Itís laid threadbare that eight-year-old accord document signed in Oslo. Itís done more: once again shown the intractable nature of the situation. Even India, not known for betraying emotions on the subject, has registered ĎĎgraveíí concern at the situation. Indian diplomatic circles are expounding on the virtues of the Mitchell Plan or even the Egypt-Jordan proposals to get the peace process back on track.

But the peace process needs two parties for negotiations. Go back a few lines and youíll see there are no two negotiating partners. There is Israel, and thatís it. Palestine under the leadership of Yasser Arafat is a non-negotiating partner. An American student once summed up why there is no peace process in Palestine. Itís because each time the two sides begin talking, someone throws a rock and itís off.

And who throws the first stone: no prizes for guessing that. The Israelis may have more Scuds but the stone-advantage is definitely on the Palestinian side. Yasser Arafatís young army of unemployed or under-paid youth are throwing stones and when that doesnít work, they are throwing themselves into Israeli restaurants.

In the meanwhile, Arafat is doing what he does best: Wobble his lower lip. Heís been doing it since last year at Camp David. Where he was supposedly offended because US President Bill Clinton refused to pay enough attention to his barely discernible dialogue with Ehud Barak.

A dialogue that soon turned into a single syllable monologue: No. Barak proposed that Israel retain 5 per cent of the West Bank, on which about 80 per cent of the Jewish settlers lived, so they would not have to be evicted. In return, Arafat would be compensated with land from Israel, and with some Palestinian refugees returning to Israel, and all others receiving financial compensation. This deal meant Arafat was going to get 95 per cent of his demand, including a capital in East Jerusalem. Arafat had the best deal ever seen outside Israel and, know what, he said no.

Because Arafat wanted to go back for that 5 per cent. He wanted to go back 10 years, to tear up the Oslo agreements, to pretend Camp David never happened. In the process, he proved what the world had suspected many years ago. That he is no leader of the Palestinian people. That anyone who arrives at the table with an all or nothing agenda is no negotiator. Thatís why it will do well for Sharon to keep attacking his position and ignore the world that is calling for talks to strengthen Arafat. The talks will have to wait another generation.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), August 19, 2001


Sonia has hit the nail on the head

-- Steve (ke6bjd@yahoo.com), August 20, 2001.

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