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Politics : War

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To: Carolyn who started this subject8/24/2001 12:27:07 PM
From: TimF  Read Replies (2) of 23264
 
I'm not saying I support this idea for a solution, I'm just wondering what people think about it.

A Way Out of the Middle East Impasse
nytimes.com

By THOMAS FRIEDMAN

The Middle East conflict has
gotten so violent and
depressing, you wonder how the
two sides can ever find a way
out. We need a new idea. I'd like
to propose one — but first some background.

If you listen to the Israeli left, the only way out of this
stalemate is more talks with Yasir Arafat. I was a strong
believer in the Oslo process, because Oslo was a
necessary and worthwhile test of whether Israel could
produce a Palestinian partner for a secure peace. It was a
test the majority of Israelis wanted, it was a test that
contributed mightily to the investment and prosperity
Israel enjoyed in the 1990's, which helped absorb so many
Russian immigrants, and it was a test that made possible
the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, as well as Israeli
diplomatic missions from Qatar to Morocco.

It was also a test that Israeli leaders, from Yitzhak Rabin
to Bibi Netanyahu to Ariel Sharon, felt was important
enough for each to participate in land-for-peace trades
with Mr. Arafat, because they each knew that there was no
military solution and that any long-term peace had to
involve Israel's ceding land in return for Mr. Arafat's
providing security. Finally, it was a test needed to unite
Israel: a majority of Israelis had to find out if there was an
alternative to permanent life on the barricades.

But at some point you have to say the test failed. That is
what Camp David symbolized. Mr. Arafat was not willing
to look his people in the eye and tell them that 95 percent
was all they were going to get and they needed to make the
best of it, nor was he willing to acknowledge a Jewish
connection to Jerusalem's Temple Mount. Which is why I
don't believe the left's argument that more negotiations
now with Mr. Arafat will do the trick. Maybe Israel can
still strike a mini-deal or a cease-fire with Mr. Arafat, but
not a final peace.

That's right, says the Israeli right, so what we need now is
not more negotiations but more military pressure; now is
the time to crush Mr. Arafat and his whole gang.

No one can criticize Israel for retaliating in the harshest
manner for suicide bombs in restaurants; no country in the
world would behave otherwise. But the idea that there is a
tipping point, where enough military pressure on the
Palestinians will get them to say "uncle" and willingly
accept some mini-mini-state in the West Bank, is utter
fantasy. Five million Jews cannot sustain a military
solution against five million Palestinians and 95 million
Arabs.

O.K., says the Israeli right, then just smash them and then
put up a wall around Israel. Another fantasy. First of all,
thanks to all the ideological Jewish settlements that Israel
has set up in the West Bank and Gaza (recklessly cheered
on by the American Jewish right), Israel now has a huge
strategic-political problem.

If Israel keeps all the settlements and the Arab areas
around them, demographically it will become an apartheid
state or a non-Jewish state. If it tries unilaterally to uproot
some of the settlements, without any commitments from the
Palestinians, it will trigger a Jewish-Jewish civil war. It
will also provide a huge victory for Palestinian radicals
— who will have gotten land for war. If Israel uprooted
only some settlements and put up a wall, it would leave
behind a chopped-up Palestinian mini-state that would be
totally non-viable. It would be a seething cauldron,
uncontrolled by Israel, that could easily acquire heavier
weapons from Iraq and become a strategic threat.

In short, Oslo was a test that failed, but was aborted
before it was too late. The settlements are a continuing,
long-term threat to the entire Zionist enterprise. So what to
do? Staying in the West Bank and Gaza will slowly
destroy Israel from within, but just leaving and putting up
a wall could destroy Israel from without.

The only solution may be for Israel and the U.S. to invite
NATO to occupy the West Bank and Gaza and set up a
NATO-run Palestinian state, à la Kosovo and Bosnia. I'm
serious. Israel can't stay in the West Bank and Gaza and
remain a Jewish democracy; but it can't unilaterally
withdraw, put up a wall and leave an uncontrolled
Palestinian entity there — without creating a permanent
threat to Israel's existence. Nor, for that matter, can Israel
trust Mr. Arafat anymore to administer these areas
properly. What is needed is for Israel to turn these areas
over to NATO or a NATO- like force. The Palestinians
can have their state — but no army — under NATO's
watchful eye.

It's a long shot, but it addresses the real problem, and a
future column will explain how it might work.
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