Ala Against Arafat
Ala, "with his enthusiastic smile, embodied for millions of people on both
sides the hope and longing for a better future of peace and serenity, commented
Tel Aviv's liberal Ha'aretz
in its editorial (Sept. 9, 2003). "Exactly a decade ago, Ahmed Qureia, better
known as Abu Ala, burst into the Israeli consciousness....The man who represented
the PLO in the secret negotiations in Oslo embodied for millions of people on
both sides the hope and longing for a better future of peace and serenity. Now,
with the announcement...of Qureia's appointment as the new prime minister of the
Palestinian Authority, it is difficult to say his emergence at center stage raises
much enthusiasm in Israel.
have been too many disappointments since Oslo, too many missed opportunities,
too much innocent blood has been spilled in recent years to hang much hope on
a change of personnel in Ramallah. However, Qureia's mere readiness to accept
the challenge was noteworthy. The conditions he is presentingmore energetic
involvement by the United States and Quartet members in lifting the Israeli threat
against Arafatare evidence of political wisdom. Upon assuming office, Qureia
will face two tests: He will have to restrain the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terror
organizations, as well as the Tanzim, affiliated with his own movement, and he
will have to preserve his independence from Arafat."
to Tel Aviv's right-wing, religious Hatzofeh
(Sept. 9), however, "Arafat's
decision to charge his confidant Abu Ala with the responsibility for forming a
new government effectively means that the PLO Chairman has decided to reassume
his position at the top of the Palestinian leadership....[S]ooner or later, Washington
will have to reconsider its policy and reach the conclusion that as long as Arafat
holds the steering wheel, it will be impossible to advance the policy anchored
in the road map....It is not only the hudna which has come apart, but the
road map ceased to exist at the moment that Hamas and Islamic Jihad toppled Abu
Mazen and restored control to Arafat and his cohorts."
Aharonot concluded that the Israeli government, too, was to a certain extent
responsible for Abu Mazen's demise. "What does the government have to offer
Arafat's successors? If we look at the precedent set by Abu Mazen, the begging
conclusion is that Sharon's government has no real and courageous proposal for
the Palestinians in the post-Arafat era....Arafat flourishes when the Palestinians
are being suffocated under the burden of occupation. The end of the occupation
is therefore the most correct and effective method to end the Arafat era in the
Middle East. Any other process will only strengthen him and his cursed grip."
Palestinian Leadership Didn't Supply the Goods"
fall of Abu Mazen's government came as no surprise but was met with disappointment.
Yediot Aharonot commented in its editorial (Sept. 8) that whereas most
Israelis would say that Abu Mazen did not survive because "Arafat didn't
let him and won't allow any chance for a settlement or normalization," most
Palestinians would say that Abu Mazen failed because "he simply didn't supply
the goods." The editors referred to a Palestinian opinion poll, which indicated
that support for Hamas, and other rejectionist groups, increased as support for
Abu Mazen's government decreased. "This, if you like, is the true infrastructure
of terror, born out of Palestinian desperation, and impervious to any American
or Israeli pressure," Yediot Aharonot continued. "The real war
on it is not fought with helicopters, but with opening a ray of hope for a people
that lives in poverty and humiliation. True assistance to Abu Mazen isn't bombing
[Hamas' spiritual leader] Sheikh Yassin, as the security establishment argues,
but proving to the Palestinians that his way is to their benefit. Arafat can best
be neutralized not by expelling him, but by generosity to those who constitute
suggested (Sept. 8) that Abu Mazen "also disappointed those who didn't expect
very much from him in the first place," and the paper suggested that Abu
Mazen, Israel, and the United States know that it was Yasser Arafat who undermined
Abu Mazen. The editors declared, "The time has come to remove Arafat from
the scene and simply expel him from the region....[H]e leads the Palestinian terror
machine, prevents any possibility of diplomatic progress by the Palestinians [and]
is torpedoing any attempt to stop the wave of terror and violence."
political analyst Abdel-Moneim al-Said summarized the deadlock in the peace effort
in the liberal Saudi daily al-Watan on Sept. 4: The lesson weve
learned about the Arab-Israeli conflict is that it just goes from bad to worse.
The interests and future of whole peoples have become contingent upon the conflict.
If things are left as they are, leadership will pass to Hamas and Sheikh Ahmed
Yassin to decide the fate of 300 million Arabs. If leadership passes to the moderate
Arab states, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, then the Arab peace initiative (land
for peace with Israel and regional cooperation) is the strategic entry point for
changing the political culture of the whole region. The general direction of the
Arab world depends on decisions we take now and if the road map dies, then the
future of the entire Arab region will move the way of suicide and suicide bombers.
deadly suicide bombing in Jerusalem...is proof that [Palestinian militants] did
not keep their word," commented Ze'ev Schiff in Ha'aretz (Aug. 20).
"[The] attack, the first such incident since the declaration of the hudna
at the end of June, marks a personal failure for Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud
Abbas and for [Palestinian Defense Minister Mohammed] Dahlan himself....This deterioration
in Palestinian societywhich maintains only an extremely thin layer at its
top that is called the 'Palestinian Authority'strengthens those who think
that it is impossible to control what happens in the territories."
Al-Rai countered (Aug. 21): "If the Israeli army was unable to 'root
out terrorism,' how can Dahlan succeed?"
to the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyasa (Aug. 23), violence by Palestinians against
Israel would in the end hurt their own people. In Jerusalem we saw the terrorist
attack and its bloody effects. Does this in any way help the Palestinians? Whoever
is behind this attack is a lunatic. The Palestinian prime minister must eradicate
these lunatics because they harm the Palestinian people and also Arab-Arab and
in the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds
(Aug. 21) voiced despair over
the renewed carnage. "No one here thinks that the killing of children, mothers
or the elderly...helps the cause of Palestinians for liberation. Acts like these,
as well as those perpetuated by the Israeli government of assassinations, destroying
homes, etc, do show that the conflict is reaching a new levelin which both
sides believe that the most awful damage has to be inflicted to the other side
to meet their goals and in the process forgoing human civilization. The most important
thing seems to be to kill as many of 'the other side' as possible, no matter whether
innocent or not, children or otherwise...and it goes without saying that children
have very often been the victims. Both sides lose...there will be no winner as
the violence starts anew."
this inevitability, we must realize that the Palestinian Authority's effectiveness,
whether of its officials or institutions, to defy Israeli and American pressures
is limited," opined Salih al-Qallab of the London-based Saudi-owned daily
Al-Sharq al-Awsat. "Obviously, one of the by-products of this latest
bombing [in Jerusalem, Aug. 19] will be an increase of pressure on Arafat and
Abbas. The worst-case scenario would be if the Palestinian leadership does ultimately
comply with this pressure and it reluctantly accepts the plan to dismember what
are called terrorist networks. If this indeed does happen, then the Palestinian
civil war will finally erupt despite the long years of trying to keep this possibility
in check. Once this becomes a part of the Palestinian reality, it will engender
a never-ending cycle of killing. Thus in conclusion, Hamas will bear the historical
responsibility for the civil war if it does break out, because Hamas' actions
pushed the Palestinians over the brink. And forever more, Hamas will be blamed
for its national betrayal."
One Will Win"
thing has been seared in the mutual consciousness, after 1,000 days and 3,000
killed: No one will win here," wrote Yediot Aharonot on June 30. "Both
sides' leaders can still talk about forcing a decision, and try and define it
in inflammatory, or just unclear, terms. The peoples already know that everything
is rubbish....The more we and they rid ourselves of the illusion of victory, the
day will be closer in which the two boxers will finally be able to go back to
their corners and lick their wounds."
Aqaba summit, as Yoel Marcus put it in his editorial in Ha'aretz (June
6), "provided the real test for the leaders on both sides to assess their
determination to create a situation that offers no hope to crazies and extremists."
is right. Both people still want to live in peace, and were it not for extremists,
they could have achieved their dream a long time ago. Those extremists, however,
don't stand idly by with their hands behind their backs and watch their goals
being shattered. After Aqaba, their killing spree continued unabated. It is up
to the Palestinians to continue to curb extremists. If they won't, the Israelis
will. For Israel, the immediate task is to dismantle settlements
and prevent a civil war with hard-line settlers. It won't be easy, but, as
the evacuation of Yamit in the Sinai in April 1982 has shown, doable.
now, with Arafat gone, the Palestinians can finally move forward.
strong leaders will be able to make peace in the region, and Israel will have
to assist in keeping the Palestinian government, now under Abu Mazen and Abu Ala,
together. Only legitimate leaders can achieve anything in the region, and the
Palestinians have to decide once and for all in which direction they are heading
with their upcoming Jan. 9 2005 presidential elections.
Me the Money!
the blame on the main players on the Israeli and Palestinian sides was never enough.
Arab nations, too, will now have to do more than give lip service to the Palestinian
cause. In 2002, 11 Arab states pledged a mere US$8.2 million to the U.N.
Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) fund to ease the
plight of Palestinian refugeesBahrain, Brunei, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon,
Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates; Egypt and
Oman did not contribute a single dollar. Just as a comparison: Tiny Norway paid
$14 million into the fund and Sweden contributed $20 million. The United States
pledged $120 million (which will rise soon to $200 million); the European Commission
gave $79 million, and the United Nations $13 million.
Road Map Paid for in Euros," read a headline in London's Financial Times
(July 18, 2004). The article, written by the European Commissioner for External
Relations, Christopher Patten, argues that without assistance from the European
Union (E.U.), "There would have been no Palestinian interlocutor for the
negotiations now under way." According to Patten, between November 2000 and
December 2002, the E.U. gave nearly $280 million in financial aid "to keep
the Palestinian administration alive and sustain the most basic of public services."
Then, in 2004, the E.U. contributed $245 million to the Palestinians, the United
States gave $315 million and Saudi Arabia, the largest donor in the Arab world,
paid $115 million.
meager contribution of the Arab states is a pitiful attempt to keep the situation
of the Palestinians as dire as it is. In 1952, the UNRWA set up a fund of $200
million to provide homes and jobs for the refugees, but it went untouched. In
August 1958, the former director of UNRWA, Ralph Garroway, proclaimed: "The
Arab states do not want to solve the [Palestinian] refugee problem. They want
to keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the United Nations and as a weapon
against Israel. Arab leaders don't give a damn whether the refugees live or die."
Jordan was the only Arab country to welcome the Palestinians and grant them citizenship
(to this day, Jordan is the only Arab country where Palestinians as a group can
become citizens). King Abdullah considered the Palestinian Arabs and Jordanians
Palestinians receive a little more than $1 billion a year
from outside sources, making them the world's largest recipients of international
aid, with nearly $300 per person in annual payments for 3.5 million inhabitants.
does the money go? Surely not to the refugee camps that breed hatred and terrorism,
where 4.5 million Palestinians continue to live in poverty and filth. Sixty percent
of the Palestinians live below the poverty line. And yet, UNRWA spends $400 million
a year to assist Palestinian refugees. Those refugees, however, are still exploited
as martyrs for the Palestinian cause, and their plight is deliberately kept unresolved.
the United States, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had been considering
giving $300 million aid "to help the Palestinian Authority (PA) deal with
Hamas and other militant Palestinian groups responsible for attacks on Israelis."
The Bush administration also pledged continuing its policy by aiding the PA directly
"to improve its intelligence and security apparatus."
July 9, 2004, the New York Times reported that the initial installment
of this first direct U.S. monetary assistance to the Palestinians, amounting to
$20 million, "will be given out in the coming days." The money was intended
to improve basic services in Palestinian areas being vacated by Israel, including
road, sewage, and water projects. In the long run, the goal is to gradually reduce
the influence of Hamas, which runs a network of schools and welfare services for
Palestinians. In early September, the European Union followed the U.S. lead and
declared Hamas a terrorist organization.
November 2004, after Yasser Arafat's death, the Bush administration announced
that it would provide an additional $23.5 million in aid to the PA to help conduct
presidential elections (scheduled for Jan. 9, 2005), to establish security, meet
the PA's payrolls and to upgrade infrastructure in Gaza.
July 2004 survey among 1,000 Americans found that an overwhelming majority of
U.S. citizens, 74.1 percent, oppose sending what now amounts to $213 million in
annual aid to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
to Abraham D. Sofaer, a legal adviser to the Department of State from 1985 to
1990 and the principal negotiator of the 1989 accord that returned to Egypt the
Israeli-held area of Taba in the Sinai, "The U.N. and the United States have
allowed these terrible practices [of Arabs and Palestinians exploiting Palestinians]
to continue for years....The problem is that the road map...expects to bring an
end to Palestinian violence against Israel without addressing the reasons why
the Palestinians have deliberately and repeatedly chosen that path." (Commentary,
Dec. 17, 2004, the New York Times reported that the United States, Europe
and Arab countries "were considering greatly increasing maybe even
doubling aid to the Palestinians.... A four-year package of $6 billion
would be forthcoming...if the elections occurred successfully and if the new government
cracked down on militant groups.... The World Bank says the package would be the
largest per person international aid program since World War II."
Israeli commentators seemed
surprised by the continuing violence immediately after the Aqaba summit. "The
war with the Palestinians will only reach its end when both sides collapse,"
the editors of Yediot Aharonot predicted on June 9. "No one believed
anything ended or began at the summit
.No one is willing to listen anymore."
Oz has been optimistic that both sides are equally pragmatic about peace talks
and follow through. But there are others who have stopped believing in miracles.
"[In Aqaba], the American wise man, U.S. President George W. Bush, echoed
Shimon Peres in a bygone era, calling on both sides to continue negotiating despite
the killings," wrote Ofer Shelach in Yediot Aharonot on June 9. "Tomorrow,
maybe the day after that, Bushs determination will come to an end as a result
of the past few months, and he will once again leave us alone with our troubled
soul. The noise that you hear now is not the sound of an orchestra accompanying
the ceremony [in Aqaba]. Its just a bunch of terrified people who are whistling
in the dark."
is one thing the critics of peace talks still haven't grasped: Compromise is not
a sign of weakness. A country armed to the teeth can be weaker than a country
willing to make concessions for peace. The Israelis don't want intimate friendship
with the Palestinians, nor do they want Arafat to be their brother. They just
want to rid themselves of the burden of being held responsible for every ill that
has befallen the Palestinian society. For Palestinians seem to blame everybody
but themselvesor, for that matter, their Arab neighborsfor their plight.
sincere peace process bearing fruits would give the Israelis moral backing to
defend themselves if they have to. Peace with the Palestinians would primarily
set the boundaries of how to deal with this new unit under international law,
should Israel be threatened again. Thus the peace process is not evidence that
Israel is falling to its knees; instead, it serves to separate two worlds that
neither can nor wish to live together. Within this new reality, another Intifada
would be equivalent to a declaration of warwhich in turn could be fought
with every legitimate means in accordance with the Geneva Convention.
Fighting the Enemy Within
failing morale of Israeli soldiers, the lack of will to fight that began with
the 1982 Lebanon war, had a deep psychological and very human basis: The enemy
was no longer concrete, had no army, did not threaten Israel's borders, but came
instead from within. During the first Intifada, Israeli soldiers became police
officers, dealing with guerrilla fighters and stone-throwing children. The army,
praised for its morality, was expected to "break the bones of civilians."
Any attempt to weaken the Palestinian Authority during that time strengthened
Israel's new position as an occupying power. The situation was no longer tolerable
to most Israelis. The peace talks were begun by politicians who were tired, not
of fighting but of having to defend themselves against civilians, against an insubstantial,
nonmilitary enemy, and against a biased world opinion.
the Middle East came to realize that, given the dangers of fundamentalism, they
could not continue as before. It is no longer the old enemies who are ready to
attack; new forces are at work. If Israel had attempted to fight Hamas a few years
ago, the world would have continued to view Israel as the aggressor. Israel's
hands were tied, despite its military strength.
After concessions that
did not, in fact, threaten Israel's security, the Jewish state had found in the
Palestinian Authority an accomplice that, while it continued to feel sorry for
itself, still could be an ally who had the most to lose from terrorism. But with
the launching of the second Intifada, the Palestinian Authority chose to set its
own people back by decades.
Are Sick of a Handful of Terrorists!"
terrorism is no longer only Israel's problem, as the events of September 11 and
the war on terrorism have proved, but neither can Israel rely on the Palestinian
Authority to completely eradicate terrorists roaming the autonomous territories.
The peace efforts require international cooperation and a sense of solidarity
in order once and for all to take a position that makes terrorism unacceptable,
wherever it may occur.
Since Oslo, the situation in the Middle East has
involved everyone, inside and outside the region, making it no longer just Israel's
responsibility. We know that the Palestinians can do an adequate job of stopping
the violenceif it suits themand stem the incitements and justifications
for violence against Israel within the Palestinian education system. And we also
know that most Palestinians want to live in peace with the Israelis. Ahmed Tibi,
Arafat's former political adviser, said many years ago: "I have had enough
of Palestinians doing these things to Israel. We're sick of letting a handful
of terrorists destroy our dream of peace. We must finally begin to prevent terrorism."
If it should finally become possible, with Palestinian help, to fight
Hamas, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, and Islamic Jihad, the world might not become a better
place but certainly a safer one. Still, Israelis and Palestinians would not automatically
become friendsit will take many generations to build trustbut at least
they could be allies living side by side, each within their own borders.
Quo at All Costs?
is still a long way to go until then. Only now will we see how far the Israeli's
strength and spiritual power can go. Anyone who has ever lived in Israel knows
what sacrifices years of war have demanded from Israeli society. Important domestic
issues that challenge every new countrylike the status quo between religion
and state, social problems, gender equality, and economic challengeshad
to take a backseat to security and defense issues. The need for a strong military,
for being tough, secured a machismo and chauvinistic outlook on all aspects of
life in Israel within the Israeli society.
In the long run, no state
can simply ignore pressing social issues. With the start of the peace process
10 years ago, there was a chance for the country to build itself up again from
within. For the first time in their history, Israelis had the feeling that they
could live in a normal country and could finally worry about other problems. The
failure of Oslo and a looming all-out war on many fronts has propelled Israel
back into a state of "status quo at all levels, at all costs, and by all
Terrorists Get Tired of Fighting?
second Intifada undermined Israeli morale and destroyed any semblance of trust
toward the Palestinians. The renewed peace process will not guarantee that there
won't be any suicide bombings in Israel. But Israel must be able to defend itself,
without isolating itself. Those Palestinians who really want peace must finally
raise their voices and holding on to Arafat's legacy can only backfire.
is at stake: The issue is supporting those Israelis and Palestinians who are tired
of war. Only then will Israel's existence and dignity and that of the Palestinians
be ensured. A peace process can never be the sole cause of terrorismit is
the response to it.
there can be no permanent peace until: a) the Arabs of the region openly accept
the existence of Israel as a permanent, sovereign state; b) Israel accepts the
Palestinian right to independence; and c) Israel is finally granted a place in
the regional grouping of Middle Eastern states and given the opportunity to serve
on the U.N. Security Council (where Israel is the only country that has
no say) and other U.N. bodies.
road map to peace is a fine thing," summarizes Sofaer in his May 2003 essay
in Commentary. "But if it is based in denial and wishful thinking,
it will be rightly doomed."
For further reading:
of United Nations Member States' Language in Relation to Israel and Palestine
as Evidenced by Resolutions in the U.N. Security Council and U.N. General Assembly,
published by the United Nations Association of the United Kingdom (UNA-UK),
Israel Killed Ahmed Yassin," Israel Foreign
Security Council Resolution 1515 (November 2003), endorsing the road map
official statement on U.N. Resolution 1515
to Mideast Peace Process, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs
of Foreign Affairs: Key Documents
information on the Geneva Accord and full text (in Hebrew)
the Geneva Accord: "Accord
Offers Best Chance for Peace," by Jimmy Carter, Nov. 3, 2003
a Middle East Peace, April 2003
Map Unveiled, Assailed, May 2003
Map Revived, June 2003
(World Press Review)
and the Palestinians" (BBC)
of the Mideast Conflict (BBC)
and Facts: A Guide to the Israeli-Arab Conflict (Jewish Virtual Library)
Arab-Israeli Conflict (International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism)
Road Map in Hebrew (Ha'aretz)
of the Speeches Held at Aqaba (Ha'aretz)
of Conflict" (CNN Special Report)
Nations: "Question of Palestine" Resolutions/Analyses on the Mideast
conflict and the road map
on the Road Map (The Council on Foreign Relations, New York)
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA)
European Taxpayers' Money: Supporting the Palestinian Arabs, A Study in Transparency",
reactions to Abu Mazen's speech at Aqaba (The Middle East Media Research
of recent terrorist attacks in Israel (Anti Defamation League, New York)
and Israeli Fatalities Sept. 27, 2000Aug. 12, 2003 (International
Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism)
ReleaseVeering Off the Road Map" (Eli Kazhdan, Jerusalem Center
for Public Affairs)
Security Council Resolutions (U.S. Department of State)
General Assembly Resolutions 1947 and 1948 (U.S. Department of State)
Separation As Road Map Insurance"
(Gerald M. Steinberg, Jerusalem
Center for Public Affairs)
Borders For Israel"
(Dore Gold, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Map of Israel
Washington Institute for Near East Policy
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