Conflict escalates between
Israel and Palestine
Start counting down now, folks. Sept. 28,
2000 is the date historians years from now will mark as the beginning of
the current round of
You see, it was on that day that Ariel
Sharon (currently the Israeli Prime Minister) made a visit to the Temple
Mount. The site is one of the most
hotly disputed sites by the two sides,
because it holds the Western Wall, the last remaining piece of the Jewish
temple, as well as two mosques.
Needless to say, the Palestinians didn't
like it. Sharon is a conservative, and has been accused by the Palestinians
of various criminal acts in
previous armed conflicts. His arrival
sparked a riot in which more than 30 people, mostly Israelis, were injured.
Shortly thereafter, the war of
words began, with Arafat denouncing Sharon's
Fast forward through time "days of
rage," the release of Palestinian terrorists by Arafat's government and
the real kicker that made things go
even further downhill -- the wave of popularity
that swept Ariel Sharon into office.
Quite seriously, the Palestinians had only
themselves to blame for that, because the more they denounced the man,
the more the opposing
Israelis loved him. Peace talks fell through
because Sharon was not Ehud Barak, a previous Israeli leader, not willing
to give in nearly as much
to Palestinian demands. (Then again, it
didn't matter much. Even when Barak offered unprecedented concessions from
the Israeli side, Arafat
walked away from the table.)
Sharon's new government quickly set its
terms into place -- no negotiation until the violence from the Palestinian
side stopped. To do so would
be to negotiate with terrorists. The Palestinians,
of course, countered that the violence could only stop if negotiations
And then there are groups like Hamas, the
"Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine" and even Arafat's own
Fatah group added to the
mix. Half of these are firmly entrenched
in the idea of getting rid of Israel altogether.
Fast-forward again. Days upon days of fighting,
shelling, children in Israeli settlements being killed by mortar shots
while they sleep, Israeli
counterattacks on buildings where they
think the mortars are located, suicide bombings. The ugly reality that,
even while they sue for peace, the
PLO is revering the suicide bombers as
holy martyrs only stirs up the bloodlust of the Palestinian side.
Kind of depressing, isn't it?
So here we sit and, unfortunately,
the blame for the situation is on Arafat. Like it or not, it was Arafat's
decree that released terrorist leaders
from jail, and Arafat who sat around declaring
"days of rage" and this whole "intifada" idea.
The political tactics that brought Arafat
to power and kept him there, the idea that he has drilled into the Palestinians
that they can win land by
killing Israelis, is nonsense, but it's
all he's got.
What will it take to bring back peace?
Arafat would have to re-jail all the terrorists, or at least all the ones
Israel hasn't killed in retaliatory strikes.
He'd have to establish a moratorium on
armed attacks, suicide bombings and everything else, and get the Palestinian
police and military to
enforce the bans. So far, he hasn't done
anything of the sort. The addition of United Nations inspectors, his main
battle cry right now, would be
ludicrous; they'd wind up fighting with
the terrorists the first time there was a mortar strike, and before you
know it the UN forces would be
shooting Palestinians right alongside
the Israeli forces.
Since Arafat won't do these things, it's
obvious the Palestinians need a new leader. The problem is, a new leader
would come from the same
stock of terrorists and in all probability
wouldn't be any better. Meanwhile, the likes of Yitzak Rabin don't exist
any more, and the closest Israel
had (Ehud Barak) failed in his task when
Arafat reverted to type and walked away from the negotiating table.
And so we have day after day of fighting,
waiting for either the Palestinians to elect a new leader or Israel to
stop the counterattacks. It's a giant
game of chicken, and it looks like both
sides are going to lose.