By Jeff Jacoby, Boston May 28, 2001
THE PALESTINIANS, you may have noticed, have changed their tune.
When the current orgy of violence against Israelis began last fall, the
explanation out of Gaza City – faithfully echoed by most of the Western media –
was that it was all Ariel Sharon’s fault. His visit to the Temple Mount on
September 28, it was said, outraged and infuriated Palestinians.
That, apparently, was why many took to hurling rocks, firing guns,
demolishing Jewish shrines, lynching Israeli drivers, and bombing children
taking the bus to school.
There were always a few problems with this explanation, such as the
fact that the violence began before Sharon’s visit. But it is especially
untenable now: even Palestinians admit it isn’t true.
“Whoever thinks that the Intifadah broke out because of the despised Sharon’s
visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, is wrong,” Imad al-Faluji, the Palestinian
communications minister, declared in March. “This Intifadah was planned in
advance, ever since President Arafat’s return from the Camp David
So the party line has been updated. The real cause of the violence, Palestinians
now claim, is the growth of Israeli communities in Gaza and the West Bank.
“A cessation of settlement activities is part of a cessation of
violence,” says Faisal Husseini, a prominent Palestinian official.
Jibril Rajoub, one of Arafat’s top militiamen, seconds the motion.
“Everybody should know,” he announced, “that those settlements are the
cancer and the reason at all times for tension.”
This excuse, too, has found a ready reception in the media – especially
since the international fact-finding committee headed by George Mitchell
recommended, as a ‘confidence-building measure,’ that Israel declare a
moratorium on expanding the settlements.
When Secretary of State Colin Powell briefed the press on the Mitchell
Committee report, he was repeatedly asked what Washington would do to
compel Israel to freeze its settlements. No reporter seemed to wonder what
Washington would do to compel Arafat to stop his murderous offensive.
It hasn’t taken long for the Palestinian line – Jewish settlements
justify Arab violence – to become conventional wisdom. “Stop those
settlements,” commands The Economist this week; it asserts that Jewish
neighborhoods in the territories “negate all chance of
Palestinian-Israeli peaceful coexistence.”
The Chicago Tribune editorializes: “There is little incentive for the
Palestinians to return to the table without an Israeli freeze on settlements.”
Eight months ago, Israel offered not only to freeze its settlements but
to dismantle most of them and pull out of 98 percent of the territories
Ehud Barak laid on the negotiating table nearly everything the
Palestinians had demanded: all of Gaza and the West Bank, a sovereign
state, power-sharing in Jerusalem, control of the Temple Mount.
Arafat responded by kicking the table over and starting a war.
In short, Palestinian violence did not explode because Israel refused
to give up the settlements but because it agreed to do so.
The Arab rocks, bullets, Molotov cocktails, and suicide bombs of the
past eight months are no different from the Arab rocks, bullets, Molotov
cocktails, and suicide bombs of the past eight years – the years of the
Oslo ‘peace’ process.
The more Israel has agreed to give, the more enraged and
uncompromising the Palestinian reaction has been.
Only to those who have never mastered Appeasement 101: Give a
dictator the sacrifice he demands and you inflame his appetite for more.
To insist that Israel “stop those settlements” in exchange for an end
to Arab violence is to insist that Oslo be upended. The Israeli-Palestinian
accords have never barred Israel from building or expanding settlements in the
territories; the ultimate fate of those communities has always been one of the
‘permanent status’ issues to be decided at the end of the process.
By contrast, the starting point of the peace process – the foundation on which it
was built – was that Palestinian violence had ended.
“The PLO commits itself … to a peaceful resolution of the conflict
between the two sides,” reads the document that Arafat signed on Sept. 9,
1993, “and declares that all outstanding issues relating to permanent status will
be resolved through negotiations…. The PLO renounces the use of
terrorism and other acts of violence.”
That was the promise that earned Arafat his invitation to the White House, his
handshake from Yitzhak Rabin, his Nobel peace prize. That was the promise in
exchange for which Israel gave Arafat land and power, money and weapons,
diplomatic recognition and the status of a peace partner.
The Palestinians did not retain the right to resort to rocks and bullets and
bombs whenever they find it useful. They did not promise to end the
violence only if Israel agreed to their every demand. They promised to end
the violence for good.
If that promise was a lie, the entire peace process is a lie. Was it?
Look at the Middle East and draw your own conclusion.