Shortly after Ariel Sharon was elected in Israel he cynically demanded a full week of quiet before he would agree to negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. I say “cynically” because most people, not least himself, knew a week of quiet was not going to happen. Hamas and Islamic Jihad were murderously opposed to negotiations. Yasser Arafat was in their pocket. (Or were they in his pocket? Does it make any difference?) So Sharon could come across as a reasonable man willing to talk when we all knew full well he had no intention or desire to talk about the intifada. What was there to talk about? It wasn’t going to stop until it was crushed or Jews fled Israel in boats.
Well, goodbye to all that. Charles Krauthammer notes in The Washington Post:
At the height of the intifada, there were nine suicide attacks in Israel killing 85 Israelis in just one month (March 2002). In the past three months there have been none.
It’s a good idea to teach children that violence does not solve problems. It almost always is true. It certainly hasn’t done much for the Palestinians.
The sad fact of the matter, though, is that violence does sometimes solve problems. It worked for Israelis. Smashing terrorist nests, assasinating terrorist leaders, and implementing the Israeli left’s (non-violent) demand for a separation fence paid off handsomely.
Now it’s time to talk peace. Now it’s time for a “road map” that might actually work.
It’s theoretically possible that Yasser Arafat is tired of living in his bombed out compound in Ramallah (he’s been trapped there by tanks for over two years) and would like to sign a treaty. He can’t be a cheerleader for an intifada that no longer exists.
But I don’t see much point in including the man in any talks. Most likely he’ll drag out the process as long as he’s sucking oxygen. If he does decide to cut a deal and stick to it, the Palestinians will have to suffer with him as their dictatorial overlord until he finally keels over or someone speeds up the process and feeds him a bullet.
Better, I think, to keep Arafat marginalized. Start a new “road map.” Have an election in the West Bank and Gaza where Palestinians elect someone to negotiate on their behalf. If they choose a new leader wisely, Israelis will send Ariel Sharon back to his farm and give them their state.
If they prefer to drag this out for several more years, it’s their choice and their loss.