Writing in the Jerusalem Post the day before Ariel Sharon's smashing election victory, columnist Saul Singer displays the bankrupt ideology of the Israeli left that led to the toppling of Prime Minister Ehud Barak: "Israel should (not) form a narrow right-wing government, which in the current context would be (Palestinian Authority leader Yasser) Arafat's best hope for "Kosovizing' the conflict. The lesson is that what brings peace is not fulfilling Palestinian grievances but bringing the Palestinians to the conclusion that Israel cannot be browbeaten into abandoning its fundamental interests."
Singer is only partially right. He is right in rejecting the fulfillment of Palestinian grievances as a worthy negotiating objective. He is wrong to suggest that the Palestinian leadership can be persuaded to abandon its objective of taking all the land and annihilating Israel. Implicit in his argument is the widely held view that what Israel does determines the behavior of the Palestinian side.
Under Barak's leadership (he has lead Israel closer to annihilation), Israel has relinquished land it bought with Jewish blood in order to improve its security and received only violence in return. Promises of violence are the only promises Israel's enemies keep. Hussein Sheikh, a leader of the Fatah Tanzim terror organization in the West Bank, called Sharon's political platform a declaration of war.
Islamic Jihad has promised to attack targets in Israel in the coming days. Hamas, too, threatened to carry out suicide attacks and to fan the Intifada uprising. Sheikh said Fatah will concentrate its attacks inside the pre-1967 borders. "Our aim is to end the occupation," he said.
Israel's enemies continue to use the language of war. There is nothing in any of their statements that indicates a desire for peaceful co-existence. The Palestinian Authority information minister, Yasser Abd-Rabbo, was interviewed on a Voice of Palestine program election day morning. He called Sharon a representative of "the extreme right wing" in Israel and said Sharon's approach to power was "fascist."
Strength is precisely what Israel needs at the moment, and Sharon's approach to "peacemaking" will build the nation's strength and resolve to deal forcefully with its adversaries. History's lesson, which many have failed to learn, is that appeasement doesn't prevent war. It merely ensures that war will be worse for the appeaser.
It doesn't take a prophet to see what will happen next. Sharon will be provoked into responding to a terrorist act. American news crews will dutifully record images of bloodied Palestinians who instigated the trouble, but fewer of Israelis who were their targets. American reporters will editorialize, blaming Israel for violence. Arafat's propaganda machine will unleash spokespersons who will again claim Israel is the cause of all tension and violence in the region.
There will be new calls for sanctions and other outside pressure against Israel to relinquish more land, but no parallel call for the Palestinian side to live up to any of the peace agreements to which it has been a party. The Labor government and its leftist allies will then do all they can to bring down the Sharon government, even though the cause of the new violence can be laid at Labor's doorstep because of Barak's policies.
If Sharon can form a government out of a divided Knesset, and especially if he can add to Likud's majority in the next election, he might be able to have a stable government and contribute to peace through strength. He is less likely than Barak to be taken in by the give and take of the previous government (with Israel doing all the giving and Arafat doing all the taking).
The Israeli people had better be prepared for an extended time of internal upheaval. This is the only strategy Arafat knows, and it has worked well for him. There's no reason for Arafat to stop throwing human fodder at Israeli guns.
The election has shown at least two things: that Israelis desperately want peace, and that Barak's way is not the way to reach that objective.
Tribune Media Services