Arafat, Beauty, and Peace

April 19, 2002

Trevor Matich


There is much smoke amidst the fire of the Arab-Israeli conflict.  In order to evaluate what's happening, it's critical that the foundation be properly set.  Seemingly sensible conclusions stemming from false foundations are themselves false.

Palestinian Authority spin specialists pepper Americans daily with the notion that the current intifada is about land; if Israel would only end it's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, there would be peace.

This sounds simple:  Just leave, and the violence will end.  But it's based on a questionable foundation.

Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights in the aftermath of the 1967 war, in which three Arab armies attacked from all sides with the express purpose of annihilating the Jewish state.  After successfully beating them back, Israel occupied some of the lands used to stage the attacks in order to deter future aggression from those same staging areas.  (There's something to be said for the concept that if you start a war and lose, you shouldn't whine about it.)

Note that this occurred in 1967.  The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was created in 1964, with it's stated mission the elimination of the state of Israel.  Yasser Arafat's personal terrorist cabal of the time, Fatah, also predates the occupation of the territories. 

The PLO's (and Fatah's) formation had nothing to do with Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza--in 1964 those lands were occupied by Arab forces, not Israeli forces.  The Gaza strip was Egyptian territory, and the West Bank was part of Jordan.  

(It's worth noting that those Arab occupiers of the West Bank and Gaza never offered their Palestinian brothers their own state.)

The "land" spin is further compromised by two events in recent history.  The first is the rejection by Arafat of the final Clinton peace proposal.  In it, Israel agreed to a sovereign Palestinian State on over 90% of the occupied territories, with part of Jerusalem as it's capital--something that no other Israeli government had ever come close to conceding.

Palestinian negotiators--and a meaningful percentage of the population of the occupied territories--thought that this was a terrific deal that should be signed.  But there was a clause in that agreement that Arafat wouldn't accept--that the violence had to end with Palestinian acceptance of Israel's right to exist.

The Palestinians had their land for peace deal.  They had won.  But Yasser Arafat's extremist aim was not a Palestinian state; it was the destruction of Israel.  So he walked out and homicide bombers began to murder Israeli babies in their strollers.

The second event is an actual example of the intent of the terrorists.  Two decades ago Israel invaded southern Lebanon in a defensive maneuver.  Various terrorists groups (first Arafat's PLO, then Hezbollah) had been staging attacks on northern Israeli towns from bases there.  Israel entered those areas in order to create a buffer zone wide enough that terrorist rockets couldn't be sent into Israeli schoolyards.  There they stayed for 20 years.

Harangued by the UN, two years ago Israel finally agreed to pull out, with the promise that there would be no more terrorist attacks launched from southern Lebanon.

Israel's reward?  According to the Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer:

"Hezbollah was not mollified. While its ostensible mission was the liberation of Lebanese territory, it did not disband. On the contrary. It occupied south Lebanon, imported huge new supplies of weapons from Iran and began sporadic cross-border attacks on Israel.

"Hezbollah has killed Israeli soldiers situated in Israeli territory. It kidnapped three soldiers who have never been seen since. Just one month ago, infiltrators from the Hezbollah territory shot and killed seven Israelis on a road in northern Israel. And now, since the end of March, Hezbollah has embarked on a serious and deadly escalation, firing rockets into Israel.

"Hezbollah is armed with 8,000 Katyusha rockets. Practically all of northern Israel lies under its guns. They are ready for firing. Hezbollah's spiritual leader, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, threatened Monday to hit Haifa with Katyusha rockets if Israel dared to respond to Hezbollah attacks."

Sounds exactly like the current situation, doesn't it.  Seems like a perfect test case for the concept, doesn't it.  Israel gave up the land.  Peace was promised.

"Land for peace."  You tell me, what is the fruit on the tree?

Henry Kissinger writes in Newsweek Magazine, "...after the experiences of Oslo, Israelis know (as should the rest of the world) that the real division among Palestinians is not between those who want peace in the Western sense--as a point after which the world lives free of tensions with a consciousness of reconciliation.  In reality, the number of Palestinian leaders holding this view is minuscule.  The fundamental schism is between those who want to bring about the destruction of Israel by continuing the present struggle, and those who believe that an agreement now would be a better strategy to rally forces for the ultimate showdown later on."

Israel is far from blameless in all this.  But she is willing to trade land for peace.  However, the current Palestinian leadership seems to hold to their long-stated goal of peace with Israel eliminated from the map, not peace with an officially recognized Israel next door.

To [badly] paraphrase Shakespeare:  Yasser Arafat, thou wantest peace as thou art beautiful.  And as we all know, thou ain't beautiful.  To paraphrase Forrest Gump:  Ugly is as ugly does.  Conclusion:  See Shakespeare paraphrase.



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