The recent death of Yasir Arafat has added concern to the discussion of the Arab-Israeli conflict, particularly the question of Palestinian statehood.Last Friday, President Bush met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and when asked by the press, Bush affirmed his support for Palestinian statehood. In reality, Bush was never against the idea of a Palestinian state to begin with, but when groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad run amuck claiming their horrific terrorist acts for the “love of Palestine,” it?s hard to win any Western support.
Both Blair and Bush are ready to work with the new Palestinian leader. Both are for a free, democratic Palestinian state and will continue their support for the existing Israeli statehood and security. Contrary to skeptics ? beliefs, the two ideas are capable of co-existence. Forming a Palestinian state can deter terrorist attacks in Israel by giving something to the Palestinians to govern and protect. The burden to act, however, is not and should not be on President Bush or even Tony Blair. It is up to two others, Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas, assuming he takes over in Palestine.
Both the Palestinians and the Israelis have their radical counterparts. The Palestinians have those nuts from Hamas and Islamic Jihad to deal with. Some neighboring Arab nations dismiss the label of terrorism and try to suggest that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are simply radical political parities. While Hamas is actually known for providing health services to Palestinians, the only way the Palestinians can reach their goal of statehood is to reject terrorism completely and unconditionally.
This means rejecting the so -called “political parties,” who are nothing more than murderers in social workers? clothing. The tragedy of Yasir Arafat was that he had this greatness within his grasp, but he never really did effectively denounce Hamas and Islamic Jihad, because of the cultural control they have on the Palestinian public. I?m really undecided on my opinion of Arafat overall because there are just so many points to look at. How history sees Arafat really is going to depend on what happens in the next couple of years in Palestinian-Israeli relations, or in the lack thereof.
On the same note, Israel has not been playing fair at all. There is one thing Bush once said that I could never bring myself to support: that Ariel Sharon is a man of peace. Sharon?s military record as a warrior for the Israeli army makes it just as hard for him to work with as the Palestinian radicals. The fact that the government under Sharon basically sealed Arafat up in his Ramallah complex shows that Sharon didn?t think too much of Arafat to begin with. Then Sharon decided to order the construction of Israeli settlements in a Palestinian territory, only provoking Palestinian anger, and Sharon knew that. When Sharon realized this was a bad idea, he called out the settlers, who by that time had already settled.
Now Sharon is experiencing two resistance fronts. On one side are the Palestinians, who never wanted Israelis in their neighborhood to begin with. Then on the other side are Israelis who want to stay and resist the idea of being told to leave by the same leader who put them there. Sharon is not a man of peace, but after this it seems that he is not a man of critical thought either. Who can top the final insult to Palestine he made when Arafat was on his deathbed? This so-called “man of peace” came out to say to Arafat on his deathbed, “You will not be buried in Jerusalem.” Sharon later goes on to refute his own speech. Flip-flopper.
The problem of the Arab-Israeli conflict is on two sides. It always was and always will be. My point is that before anyone can step in to moderate, the two sides have to do some work on their own first. The Palestinians need to stop supporting these terrorists if they want to get anywhere in achieving a Palestinian state. Abbas needs to get elected to claim a mandate, and he needs to do what Arafat wouldn?t do: crush support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Replace the praise posters
of Hamas leaders with “wanted” posters. If Palestine doesn?t take a clear stance in denouncing these murderers, then they are going nowhere. If Palestine continues to reject the War on Terror, then they have signed their own contract to be further oppressed. Strong change can only come from within Palestine.
While this challenge is difficult, I think it is more feasible than Israel?s challenge of finding a leader who is actually pragmatic and consistent about the idea of a Palestinian state. It?s time to accept the fact that two people claim the same land, and it?s time for you to start sharing, Israel. Stop trying to choke off the Palestinians and start negotiating with them once they get their act together. Of course, this is just my proposal, but I think there are others out there who agree it?s a good way to peace.
Once all this is done, then Bush and Blair should enter the discussion and moderate the two, but until both sides show that they are willing to work for the same goal and actually mean it, then there is little that President Bush or Prime Minister Blair can do.
Anthony Maalouf is a junior majoring in political science with a minor in Spanish.