Magazine article The Christian Century

The Bush-Sharon Scheme: Palestinians' Strategy of Terrorism Was Doomed to Fail, Especially after the Events of September 11. (Impressions)

Magazine article The Christian Century

The Bush-Sharon Scheme: Palestinians' Strategy of Terrorism Was Doomed to Fail, Especially after the Events of September 11. (Impressions)

Article excerpt

A POPULAR Middle Eastern joke insists President Bush's recent speech on a Palestinian state was delayed for a few days, waiting for a translation from the original Hebrew. The joke reflects Arabic anger that U.S. policy is driven by what the current Israeli leadership thinks is good for Israel. The joke also reflects a widespread media-driven perception that the most important point in Bush's speech was his call for Arafat's ouster.

Bush's criticism of the Palestinian leader makes Arafat's reelection almost a certainty, a development Bush and Sharon must have anticipated. If this was Sharon's plan, now adopted by Bush, then look for this development: Demanding his removal keeps a reelected Arafat in power so the inevitable suicide bombings continue, connecting Palestinians with ongoing terrorism. Next, Israel crushes all radical Islamic opposition (appealing to Bush's single-minded terrorism agenda). Then the new state of Palestine emerges as a collection of small, unconnected cantons under Israeli military supervision.

Arafat was allowed to return to the region in 1993 with the understanding that he would serve as Israel's local sheriff. He would keep the peace in population centers. In return he would have limited autonomy with his own flag, postage stamps, airport and limited civilian authority. Meanwhile, because this was a process and not an agreement, Israel would retain its illegal settlements and--in the interest of security--control all border crossings.

Arafat did not make a successful transfer from revolutionary hero to public official, not only because that shift is never easy but also because he was forced to ally himself with Israel and the American CIA in order to perform his duties as sheriff. Neither Israel nor the American government gave priority to Palestinian economic viability or to the freedom of Palestinians. Israel's security was always the driving force behind American policy. This arrangement, designed for U.S. and Israeli consumption, did nothing for the Palestinian people. The benefits went largely to members of Arafat's leadership team, who built elaborate homes next to refugee slums and drove big cars carrying documents that whisked them through Israeli checkpoints.

Suicide bombing emerged as a response that was aimed at both Israel and Arafat's rule. Desperate acts of a people without hope, suicide bombings are designed to change public opinion, but in this instance they were doomed to failure. Struggling to put a positive spin on these attacks, Palestinians have tried to argue that Israel's military occupation is a form of state terrorism, because they are violent attacks on a civilian population. …

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