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February 02, 2004
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Palestinians must stop their deliberate murder of Israeli women and children

Steven Den Beste from the USS Clueless (denbeste.nu) has an excellent analysis of the current stage of Israel's war on Palestinian terrorism:

As Israel continues to build its security fence along the border of the West Bank, there is rising nervousness approaching panic among the Palestinians and their Arab supporters elsewhere. They hate the idea of the fence, and there's a good reason why.

They do not have the ability to prevent Israel from completing it, which means that the only way to prevent it from being finished is either to offer Israel positive incentives to quit, or to get outsiders to pressure the Israelis to quit. And when it comes to "outsiders", the list of those whose opinions about the wall the Israelis would actually care about only has one entry: the United States. [...]

Moreover, the first "step" was for the Palestinians to do the things Bush had demanded, and it would be the US that would judge whether their performance was acceptable, and not the Europeans or the UN.

Some people have an almost religious belief that in any conflict a negotiated settlement satisfactory to both sides must possible, and that if it can be found then both sides will agree to it. It would be nice if that were true, but a study of history shows that too often that can't happen until one party in the conflict abandons some deep and major ambition or desire. That's the case here.

The Palestinian goal has always been a one state solution, that one state being "Palestine" and reaching all the way to the sea, ruled by a Palestinian majority with a small and declining number of Jewish citizens. Jews in such a Palestinian-dominated state would be treated the way whites were in Zimbabwe, if not even worse.

I copy the full article below.

USS Clueless, Steve Den Beste, 1/30/2004, Link

As Israel continues to build its security fence along the border of the West Bank, there is rising nervousness approaching panic among the Palestinians and their Arab supporters elsewhere. They hate the idea of the fence, and there's a good reason why.

They do not have the ability to prevent Israel from completing it, which means that the only way to prevent it from being finished is either to offer Israel positive incentives to quit, or to get outsiders to pressure the Israelis to quit. And when it comes to "outsiders", the list of those whose opinions about the wall the Israelis would actually care about only has one entry: the United States.

Arafat in particular is in deep trouble. Of course, Arafat is a legendary survivor, whose defeat and destruction have been predicted or declared many times (including by me). But this time it's far worse, and I don't seen any escape for him.

His fortunes have been in decline for a long time, and he's reaching the breaking point. But he's still gamely struggling. The Palestinians still can find sympathetic ears in Europe among the press and even some government leaders, and so he recently gave an interview to The Guardian.

The Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, has declared that "time is running out for the two-state solution" to the Middle East conflict - in an exclusive interview with the Guardian - because of the impact of Israel's "security barrier" and settlement expansion on the viability of a future Palestinian state.

The unprecedented warning from a man who has devoted the past 30 years to achieving a state in the West Bank and Gaza next to Israel came as momentum builds in Ariel Sharon's embattled government for a "unilateral disengagement" from the most heavily populated Palestinian areas.

Long-time Arafat watchers will not be surprised by the fact that they managed to include two really big lies in just the first two paragraphs. Arafat's willingness to lie has always been his biggest asset.

In the morning of September 11, 2001, when it first became clear that the crashes were deliberate, some immediately became suspicious that Palestinians were behind the attack. That was mostly because they didn't know very much about the political theory of terrorism as a tactic of war, but did know that Palestinians were behind nearly every terrorist attack they saw in recent news reports (as well as such notorious events as the Black September assault on the Munich Olympics).

But at the time the Palestinians were still running their campaign against Israel at least somewhat by the book. And since the goal was political victory, not mindless slaughter, the last thing the Palestinians wanted to see was a major terrorist attack against the US committed by Arabs, whether Palestinian or not. Which is why all the Palestinian terrorist groups immediately denounced the attack and disclaimed any responsibility. And film of Arafat that day made clear that he was distinctly shaken. He just plain looked terrified.

Rightly so; it's been downhill for the Palestinians ever since. In a real sense, the high-water mark for the Palestinian cause was September 10, 2001.

The Palestinian problem has been a tumor in the middle-east for decades, one which corrupt and incompetent leaders of other Arab nations have used to distract their own people. Israel made a convenient enemy and scapegoat. The Arabs even tried several times to invade Israel but were beaten every time (though not necessarily as easily as some might think). The last attempt was in 1973, after which two things happened which changed the situation forever: America bought off the Egyptians and Jordanians, and Israel developed a nuclear arsenal. Thereafter there was no chance at all of destroying Israel by direct military operations, and even if there was, Israel would have used its nukes as it died.

And in any case, Israel was more useful alive than dead. Stalemate or slow gains in the struggle was the best case for the other Arab nations, so they gave aid to the Palestinians, but not so much as to permit immediate victory. And indeed it seemed as if some progress was being made. The Palestinian Liberation Organization got partial sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza, in exchange for promises to make peace with Israel, which the Palestinians had no intention of fulfilling. Perhaps the true high-water mark was the Barak proposal; it has been condemned by some as not being "fair", but it was far more generous to the Palestinians that any previous offer made by Israel, and when it was refused it got sweetened.

At which point the Palestinians made the single biggest mistake in a very long line of huge mistakes: they decided that the Barak proposal proved that Israel was nearly broken and could be defeated outright, so instead of accepting the sweetened deal and actually living by its terms, they went to war. Arafat rejected it, and initiated the Intifada. And there's been low-level violent war between them ever since.

Which, among other things, contributed to the political rise of Israeli hardliners and an Israeli government led by Likud and Ariel Sharon.

I am no fan of Sharon, for one big reason: I think his decision to encourage building of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza was phenomenally unwise. But there's no denying that he has guts and that he was in no mood to give away the Israeli farm just for empty promises and the chance to see Arafat's duplicitous smile at a photo-op.

And after 9/11, it was a foregone conclusion that the US would go to war, and would be extremely unsympathetic to any Arab group which engaged in terrorism, even if they claimed to be freedom fighters. It's hardly any wonder Arafat was terrified.

Of course, there was also opposition to American actions, both within the US and especially in Europe, but that didn't ultimately help. There was also a concerted effort by many to try to link the Palestinian situation to the "root cause" of the attack against us, and to argue that the US should deal with it before doing anything else.

That was a particularly popular argument made by Arab governments in the region, since they assumed that if the US was interested in peace but only in peace then the only way it could really get it rapidly was by leaning on Israel. And some amongst them saw it as a way of sidetracking the US, because even as they were calling for America to solve the situation as a blocking step before any other could be made, they were also doing everything they could to make sure it was impossible to solve.

Saddam, in particular, hoped that somehow or other Bush might be trapped into accepting the idea that the US could not attack Iraq until after there was peace in Israel. So when in June of 2002 it was announced that Bush would make a major speech about Israel and the Palestinians, many had high expectations for a shift in American policy.

And they got one, but it wasn't the one they expected.

In the situation the Palestinian people will grow more and more miserable. My vision is two states, living side by side in peace and security. There is simply no way to achieve that peace until all parties fight terror. Yet, at this critical moment, if all parties will break with the past and set out on a new path, we can overcome the darkness with the light of hope. Peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership, so that a Palestinian state can be born.

I call on the Palestinian people to elect new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror. I call upon them to build a practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty. If the Palestinian people actively pursue these goals, America and the world will actively support their efforts. If the Palestinian people meet these goals, they will be able to reach agreement with Israel and Egypt and Jordan on security and other arrangements for independence.

And when the Palestinian people have new leaders, new institutions and new security arrangements with their neighbors, the United States of America will support the creation of a Palestinian state whose borders and certain aspects of its sovereignty will be provisional until resolved as part of a final settlement in the Middle East.

The speech was couched in positive and complimentary terms for the Palestinians. Direct American support for a Palestinian state was something entirely new, and he made an offer of support for that state once it was formed. And I think the offer was genuine.


BUT... though the offer was genuine, Bush knew full well he would not be taken up on it.

BUT... he made formation of that state conditional on total political reform by the Palestinians, including complete replacement of their existing leaders (which is to say Arafat), and on a total and permanent end to terrorist attacks, and on dismantlement of all terrorist organizations.

AND... he also made clear that the US would no longer engage in any kind of substantive negotiations with the Palestinians until after they had made those steps.

Among other things, this meant that Bush unequivocally rejected the idea that the US had to solve the Palestinian problem, or even to make an attempt to do so, before engaging in major military operations anywhere else (i.e. Iraq). And though Bush declared support for a Palestinian state, the speech clearly indicated his sympathy was with the Israelis, and that as long as the Palestinians refused to reform and continued the struggle against Israel, Bush would not pressure the Israelis to go easy or to give anything up. (I wrote about Bush's speech here and here.)

It was a radical change. For 25 years America had recognized Arafat as the official leader of the Palestinian cause and had negotiated with him, and Bush's speech made clear that was over. Would he actually stick to it? That was the question, and this was one of several cases where Bush has demonstrated that once he truly makes a major decision, he doesn't generally waver from it thereafter. Efforts by Arafat and his friends to try to get the US to again deal with Arafat failed, and so Arafat resorted to attempting to fake reform without really making any. He selected a Prime Minister and permitted him to form a cabinet, but refused to yield the core of his power to the PM and the new cabinet. The PM started getting the headlines and Arafat faded into the background, while still pulling the strings. And the Bush administration permitted the PM to come here and to talk to various American officials, but what they told him was that as long as Arafat continued to hold power then nothing was going to happen. Ultimately the first PM gave up and resigned.

The Europeans, in their turn, tried to push the Bush administration into being joint sponsor of a new peace plan for the region, the so-called "roadmap to peace" which included a timetable leading to a Palestinian state.

Such plans in the past with such timetables and with requirements for concessions by both the Palestinians and Israelis had resulted in the Israelis making a lot of concessions and the Palestinians not living up to their word, ultimately meaning that the Palestinians were rewarded without giving anything away.

I think that the Europeans who pushed the "roadmap" hoped it would develop that way again. The Europeans involved in this effort largely agreed that Israel was primarily responsible for the conflict and that the "fair" solution was for Israel to give up a hell of a lot. So they hoped yet again to write a timetable with each side giving things to the other side, with the full expectation that the Palestinians would not live up to it. However, those Europeans had long since squandered any influence they might have with Israel, so their only chance to force Israeli participation was if they could recruit the US into the effort. Thus the "Quartet" of Russia, Europe, the UN and the US.

Unfortunately, those same Europeans were also rapidly squandering any influence they had with the US. The Bush administration ended up hijacking that plan. It was announced by the US (and not, as one might expect, simultaneously by all four parties). My analysis of it was that under the plan, the timetable was not binding. There were several steps in the roadmap, but no step would take place until the previous one was complete, no matter how long that took. And "complete" would be judged on the basis of performance, not on the basis of smiles and lies and fakery.

Moreover, the first "step" was for the Palestinians to do the things Bush had demanded, and it would be the US that would judge whether their performance was acceptable, and not the Europeans or the UN.

Some people have an almost religious belief that in any conflict a negotiated settlement satisfactory to both sides must possible, and that if it can be found then both sides will agree to it. It would be nice if that were true, but a study of history shows that too often that can't happen until one party in the conflict abandons some deep and major ambition or desire. That's the case here.

The Palestinian goal has always been a one state solution, that one state being "Palestine" and reaching all the way to the sea, ruled by a Palestinian majority with a small and declining number of Jewish citizens. Jews in such a Palestinian-dominated state would be treated the way whites were in Zimbabwe, if not even worse.

Every peace plan, every agreement accepted by the Palestinians has always included a requirement that they give up their ambition to destroy Israel, and they always nod and smile and mouth the words. But they have never abandoned that goal.

And they have been playing a very long game. Quick victory would be nice but isn't practical; so they settled for a long process involving incremental gains. When the PLO became the PLA and gained partial sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza that seemed to vindicate the long strategy. The Barak offer suggested that the Israelis were getting desperate and were near the breaking point, and so the next phase of the struggle began: the Intifada, and a long string of suicide bombings inside Israel. I think there was a hope that it might be a knock-out blow. Suicide attacks had gained mythic significance among the Palestinians and among Arabs elsewhere.

But after 9/11, once it became clear that Bush was deadly serious about eliminating all terrorist groups and their sponsors and that he was not amused by claims that "freedom fighters" were not really terrorists, then it started looking very bad for Palestinian hopes of destroying Israel. The Israeli government felt the wind of history at its back and began to engage in a campaign to locate and kill militant leaders. Arafat's headquarters at Ramallah was wrecked by the Israelis, and he finds himself confined to the West Bank. The Israelis have made very clear that he can leave any time he wants, but if he does he can't assume he'll be permitted to return. That's a risk he can't take, so he's continued to live amongst the ruins.

All efforts to prevent invasion of Iraq and the downfall of Saddam failed, and Saddam ended up being captured while hiding in a cesspit. The fall of Saddam's government deprived the Palestinian Authority and the militants of much of their financial support, overt and covert, and the Anglo-American operation there and other actions in the "War on Terror" made other Arab leaders much less enthusiastic about supporting the Intifada. Much of the international crackdown on fundraising and money laundering which was intended to harm al Qaeda also harmed the Palestinians.

The Palestinians have never truly been united, but the early willingness of various factions to cooperate in the Intifada collapsed as they smelled Arafat's blood and began to jockey for power in the post-Arafat world. By a year ago the Palestinians were engaged in a civil war in all but the shooting. And by that point the attacks against Israel were no longer so much an attempt to defeat the Israelis as they were a way for the factions to make points with the "Palestinian Street", which was why by that point their campaign of terrorism no longer made any sense at all in light of the standard doctrine of terrorism as a way of waging war.

Arafat remained the most powerful man amongst the Palestinians, and his primary source of power was money. As the head of the Palestinian Authority, and as a dictator in all but name, he largely controlled the disbursement of the largest flows of outside funds into the Palestinian territories, and has been able to buy support and cooperation through graft and patronage. But with Saddam gone, and with much of the unofficial flow of money stopped, and with increasing nervousness by other Arab leaders about antagonizing the US, that flow of money has begun to dry up, and with it Arafat's power has waned. The actual sources of money he administered were never close to transparent, but whatever they might have been, there's a lot less of it now, and the Palestinian Authority probably won't be able to make payroll in February. The AP describes it this way:

Hit by waning support from fatigued donor nations, the Palestinian Authority has been forced to borrow from banks to pay salaries to its 125,000 employees and may be unable to meet its February payroll, the economy minister said Tuesday.

Some of the decline may well be donor fatigue, but a lot of the decline is due to fear of America or direct American pressure, not to mention changing attitudes about the whole mess during the last two years. And if the PLA can't cover its payroll, then it's unlikely to be able to keep paying for all the patronage and graft that has prevented any other Palestinian leader from challenging Arafat's position as leader.

Groups like Hizbollah and Hamas don't publish their budgets, so we can't know for sure whether their flow of funds is also dropping, but there's very good reason to believe that's happening. Certainly all support from Saddam is now cut off, and he was one of the biggest patrons of the Palestinian cause. Their other big supporters were Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Europe, and what with American troops now in Iraq on the borders of Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, and with other things that have been happening, none of them are as enthusiastic now about supporting Palestinian terrorism. And the Europeans are beginning to entertain the possibility of considering the idea of evaluating whether they should be looking into just how their aid money has been spent and whether it's been misdirected. Maybe.

Hizbollah is mostly based in Lebanon now and has little presence in Israel, but for those terrorist factions who are based in the West Bank and Gaza, another problem has been the ongoing campaign by Israel to find and capture or kill their leaders. Hamas, in particular, has been badly hurt by that Israeli campaign. And even Hizbollah has felt it.

Those of us who advocated the conquest of Iraq claimed that "the road to peace in Israel runs through Baghdad", though that was not the primary reason for invading Iraq. The argument was that there would never be peace in Israel unless either the Israelis or the Palestinians gave up, since both sides wanted the same thing (the territory of Israel) and they couldn't both have it. The Palestinians may have publicly agreed to a "two-state" solution, but never abandoned their goal of destroying Israel. As long as the Israelis refused to be destroyed, the war between the Palestinians and Israelis would continue.

The only way that war could end would be if external support for the Palestinian struggle dried up, and if the Palestinians themselves became so miserable and pessimistic that they would abandon the ambition of destroying Israel. Once that happened, peace would become possible. But as long as they still retained their ambition to implement a one-state solution (which would be a Palestinian state), then peace was impossible, since the Israelis would never accept their own destruction. So peace in Israel would only come about as a side effect of the larger effort to straighten out that entire region, and conquest of Iraq was the essential step in that process. Trying to solve the Palestinian problem first was futile and pointless.

The sure demonstration that the Palestinians never abandoned their goal of a one-state solution was that they never relented on their demand for the "right of return". That was always the deepest and most important issue, because it was the one concession that Israel could never make and would never make. If Israel had accepted it, demographic trends would have resulted in a Palestinian majority inside Israel within 30 years, permitting the Palestinians to take over via the ballot box what they never succeeded in conquering via armed struggle.

The public rhetoric about the "right of return" has never truly dealt with the true purpose of that demand, but no one in a position of power has ever been fooled by that rhetoric; they all know what it really meant. It has always been the key point; it has always been the one concession Israel could never make and would never even consider making.

Which is why I say that the first two paragraphs of the Guardian report on Arafat's interview contain two monstrous lies. The first is that Arafat has devoted the past 30 years to achieving a state in the West Bank and Gaza. He's actually devoted the past 30 years to achieving a state comprising the area we currently call "Israel".

The other monstrous lie is that time is running out for the two-state solution. In fact, the exact opposite is true: time is running out for the Palestinian one-state solution. Israel is about to unilaterally implement a two-state solution, and it is Arafat who is running out of time. Once the wall is complete and Israel disengages from the West Bank, there will be no hope that the Palestinians could eventually take Israel back. And there is a very high chance, approaching certainty, that the Palestinian interfaction power struggle would turn violent and lead to an extremely bloody Palestinian civil war similar to the one that took place in Lebanon.

The old strategy of making incremental gains against Israel over a period of years is about to fail. I think that the decision to put up the wall around the West Bank was a brilliant stroke by the Sharon government, because it offers a way for Israel to "win" without cooperation by the Palestinians, even though that win would be partial.

In every way, the decision to build the wall puts time on Israel's side, where time used to be viewed as being on the side of the Palestinians. Once the wall is complete, the Israelis can withdraw their military forces from the West Bank. Part of why the Palestinian power struggle hasn't turned violent is that the Israelis have been keeping the peace. When they are gone, it will turn ugly very rapidly.

And with the wall in place, it will become far more difficult for the Palestinians to make attacks on Israel.

Worst of all, the wall de facto draws the line of demarcation for the two-state solution, and the longer that it exists without any formal agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, the less chance there would eventually be of renegotiating the border, even if the Palestinians ultimately accepted a two-state agreement.

Meanwhile, America's war continues and shows no sign of being abandoned, and the deep American strategy in the war (to inspire political and cultural reform in the entire region) has become apparent. Our efforts to try to create a functioning democracy in Iraq are, and are intended to be, a profound threat to the corrupt autocratic governments in neighboring nations, and since they're the primary source of support for the Palestinians, it's a threat to the Palestinian cause as well. (Which is probably why many of the "foreign jihadis" in Iraq have been Palestinians.)

The Palestinians have always been underdogs in their struggle against Israel. Their most important asset was steadfastness. The Palestinians have remained committed to the struggle for decades, and until now they had been able to cause the Israelis enough trouble so that the Israelis had to deal with them, whether diplomatically or militarily. The one thing Israel could not do was to ignore the Palestinians and get on with building the richest nation in the region which did not have oil wealth.

But once the wall is in place, and Israeli forces have been withdrawn from Palestinian territories, Israel will largely be able to ignore the Palestinians; at least to the extent that the war will no longer occupy center stage in Israel politically and economically. The wall will deprive the Palestinians of the only real weapon they had in the war. And when violent civil war breaks out amongst the Palestinian factions, their situation will become immeasurably worse in every way.

There will be far more Palestinian casualties than there have been in Israeli operations, because the Palestinians will not be as restrained as the Israelis have been. And once civil war begins, international support for the Palestinians will plummet. (Even further than it already has.) And if that happens, it's not likely to end any sooner than the Lebanese civil war did.

Palestinian "unity" was always a myth but even the semblance of unity is breaking down. Once it ceases to be possible to even pretend that there exists some Palestinian leader who can make diplomatic deals on their behalf, then it no longer makes any sense even for the Europeans to demand that Israel negotiate with "The Palestinians" and make major concessions to them. Who, exactly, among the Palestinians would Israel make such a deal with, and why would there be any reason to believe that the Palestinians would live up to the terms of such a deal? (Even ignoring the fact that they've never come even remotely close to complying with the terms of any previous deal they've made.)

Now even the pretense of unity is breaking down. Major Palestinian militant factions are beginning to try to treat with Israel independently, or to deny that they are doing so. And they're making concessions, though the offers they're making remain preposterous.

Hamas offered a 10 year truce in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal to 1967 borders. That's not acceptable since Hamas could (and fully hoped to) use that time to rebuild its strength so that it could once again wage war against Israel, but the mere fact that they made the offer indicates that they're hurting.

Whether they are or not, the fact that Hamas is even trying to make independent deals with Israel is significant. It means that Arafat's grip in power is finally being broken. (There are also rumors that he's dying.) And he's getting desperate, and trying to raise a stink in the forlorn hope that someone outside will force Israel to stop building the wall.

But there's little hope of that. Perhaps in order to inject some comic relief into the situation, someone went to the World Court to try to get it to order Israel to stop, but Israel has given the World Court the finger. (It's another triumph for "international law.") Of course, that wasn't as comic as the action by the UN General Assembly.

Arafat is screeching to the international press. His latest puppet PM has asked "world leaders" to pressure Israel, but Bush won't and Sharon doesn't care what any other "world leader" thinks. The puppet is also threatening to abandon the "two state" solution and to work for a one-state solution, which threat the Israelis have rightly dismissed. He says that completion of the wall will kill off the "roadmap", and he's right: once the wall is complete, Israel won't need the "roadmap". (But he's also wrong. The "roadmap" can't be killed because it was never alive.)

Arafat has denounced Sharon and claims that Sharon is "not serious about peace". Of course, Sharon is looking for peace for Israel and damned well doesn't care if the Palestinians end up killing each other. What Arafat is actually worried about is the fact that Sharon has found a way to wrap the situation up in a way which is moderately satisfactory for Israel, without Palestinian consent and without Palestinian cooperation. Arafat does want peace, but the only peace he wants for Israelis is the peace of the grave. Now he sees his last hope of achieving that vanishing in months when the wall is completed.

The other Arabs also are beginning to recognize that the situation has fundamentally changed, and that time is no longer on the side of the Palestinians. There had been domestic political benefits in other Arab nations to be had from keeping the struggle going. But the external diplomatic cost of continuing to support the struggle has risen steeply and is reaching intolerable levels, because the US no longer has a sense of humor about it. Any hope that Bush's new policy towards the Palestinians might collapse has become thinner and thinner as months pass without any change.

The Intifada is no longer a luxury many of the Arab governments can afford. That's why this report from Haaretz is noteworthy:

According to a new peace initiative being prepared by Arab states, Israel will negotiate a peace agreement with all the Arab states, and not just with the Palestinians, and Arab states would absorb Palestinian refugees.

The Kuwaiti newspaper Al Siyasa reported Saturday that the initiative, led by Saudi Arabia, would include "declarations of peace agreements between all Arab states," which will bring an end to the conflict between Israel and the Arabs. The states would declare a normalization in their ties with Israel, including the appointment of ambassadors.

The Arab states will demand that Israel withdraw to its borders prior to the June 1967 war, in other words, to leave the Palestinian territories and withdraw from the Golan Heights.

The initiative also includes a "creative solution" for the problem of Palestinian refugees, which is one of the most serious issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

According to the plan, some two million Palestinian refugees would be allowed to return to the new Palestinian state that would be established. More than two million others would be absorbed by other Arab states, and will be compensated for the suffering they had endured.

The Arab countries would open their gates to the refugees on the condition that their number won't exceed 10 percent of the existing population.

Under the deal, Iraq will also accept Palestinian refugees. Israel will not be required to absorb any Palestinian refugees.

Even if the report is accurate, it's still not a credible offer. For one thing, at this point there's little chance that Iraq would accept a huge influx of Palestinians. And in fact, it's a bit difficult to believe that many of the other Arab states would do so either.

One of the dirty little secrets of this struggle is that most of the Arabs despise the Palestinians and don't want anything to do with them. Some of them have forcibly expelled large numbers of Palestinians who had been living within their borders. Part of why they've supported the Palestinian struggle is because they don't want the Palestinians living in their nations. But that's exactly what the Saudis are claimed to have proposed.

So I don't think this is a credible offer, but it's a noteworthy event nonetheless: it abandons the "right of return". Under the agreement, Israel would not have to absorb an influx of Palestinians.

That, combined with reports that Syria is also beginning to talk to Israel (albeit making initial demands at least as preposterous as the demands made by Hamas), and that Egypt is putting pressure on the Palestinians, makes me cautiously optimistic that things are beginning to work out the way I hoped they would.

This is yet another sign that the invasion of Iraq was a valuable step in the process of winning this war, and that as hoped it is having strong effects in the entire region.

Posted by David Melle at February 02, 2004 08:59 PM
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