Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Time for Netanyahu to Make a Change

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Time for Netanyahu to Make a Change

Article excerpt

Israel can always crush the Palestinians militarily. It expelled the PLO from Lebanon; it defeated the intifada, and it has overwhelming fire power today. But relying on force without end proved to exact a high price.

Israel obstructed the new possibilities for relations with other states of the Middle East. It discouraged economic growth, because investors want calm. And it put on individual Israelis, for many years of their lives, the heavy burden of policing another people.

Those considerations led Yitzhak Rabin, at the end of his life, to make peace with the PLO and Yasser Arafat. It was not a sentimental decision, as Rabin was not a sentimental man. It was a practical judgment of what was good for Israel. He decided that the uncertainties of peace were better than the sure costs of endless conflict. The talks hosted by President Bill Clinton this week may well decide whether Israel stays on that new path. For the violent events of the last week have forced Israel's new prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to make the choice that he has evidently hoped to fudge: the choice between the entanglements of peace and the old way of Israel acting alone. It is in those terms that Netanyahu's decision to open the new entrance to an archeological tunnel in Jerusalem has to be understood. In the abstract there was nothing wrong with doing so. Palestinian protests notwithstanding, the tunnel did not impinge on Muslim holy ground. But the symbol of the opening mattered a lot, and Netanyahu well knew it did. That is why he had it done at night, under armed guard - because he knew Palestinians would resent the failure to consult them over an agitated issue. He went ahead unilaterally, as he himself said after the violence started, because the opening "expresses our sovereignty over Jerusalem." To Palestinians the gate decision was one more sign that the new government of Israel has contempt for their feelings. Hershel Shanks, editor of Biblical Archeology Review, caught it well when he wrote in The Washington Post that the decision could only be seen "as part of a plan to humiliate the Palestinians and teach them who's boss. …

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