Eye on the Middle East May/Jun 2002
Late last winter a flurry of peace proposals began floating through the air of the Middle East. The situation in Israel was desperate. Palestinian terrorists were murdering innocent civilians at an alarming rate. In a single 24-hour period, twenty-one Israelis were killed and scores of others wounded. The Israel Defense Forces were deployed throughout the country, Gaza Strip, and Judea-Samaria (West Bank) in a desperate effort to check the violence.
Among the most alarming developments was the induction of young women into the ranks of Palestinian suicide squads. WafaIdris was the first woman to die while trying to kill as many innocent Jewish people as possible. As insane as this may sound to civilized people in the West, Idris was hailed as a Joan of Arc—a martyr worthy of being followed into death by young Palestinian girls.
With a something-must-be-done sense of desperation and, perhaps, a feeling that vulnerable, war-weary Israelis would seize virtually any plan for peace, first the French then the Saudis pushed forward their conceptions of what is needed to settle the deadly affair. France came up with the idea that Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians be granted a state immediately, no strings attached. Afterward they could worry about such pesky incidentals as stopping the violence; figuring out what to do with all those terrorist organizations; and—oh, yes—determining how much of Israel would actually be left for the Israelis. To state the obvious, the plan didn’t fly.
Next came the Saudi proposal. The West and a few Arab states immediately cheered this scenario as a real first step on the road to peace. The trouble was, there were no specifics. Well, almost none. There was the announcement that Israel must return to its pre-June 4, 1967, borders as a prerequisite for any consideration of the plan. Again, all of the sticky details would have to wait until the Israelis cashed in much of the territory needed for their national survival. Afterward, the haggling over the rest of the spoils would begin.
As for Yasser Arafat and his cadre of killers, they would be asked to do nothing. But then, that’s what Arafat has come to expect whenever negotiations get under way. However, being in a rather accommodating frame of mind, Mr. Arafat generously offered to give the Jewish people access to their own Wailing (Western) Wall and the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. The rest of Jerusalem—all of it—would be his.
Next to be heard from was Syria’s Bashar Assad. Sounding much like his late, unlamented father, Hafez al-Assad, he chimed in saying he would come into the deal if Israel gave him back the entire Golan Heights; and he further demanded that all who claim to be Palestinian refugees (they number in the millions) be allowed to return to Israel proper.
Above the clamor and clapping in the halls of the UN, one could discern the groan of the Israeli delegates. It echoed to Jerusalem and back. But why spoil such a good thing? All the Jewish people were being asked to do was commit national suicide—nothing they hadn’t been asked to do repeatedly during more than fifty years of statehood. Then again, some people are just hard to please.