Why it is time to get ourselves together

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Arab, European and American efforts to calm the ever-deteriorating situation between the Palestinians and Israelis are still ongoing. Still, there is nothing that gives reason for optimism. The Egyptian efforts, represented in the meeting between Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, failed because Peres is not a decision-maker in Israel and his duties do not exceed public relations. 

As for the European efforts, they have also failed because they proceed along the mown path of American policy. Any moves taken by Europe are heavily weighed down by a lack of self-esteem, especially in regards to Israel. 

Finally, United States efforts have failed because of their bias towards Israel and the US’s lack of recognition that the occupation is the problem and the reason for the violence and that ending this occupation is the only solution. 

Meanwhile, the accelerating violent events on the ground are creating their own dynamics. The security deterioration is escalating with a snowball effect. The increasing Israeli violence creates incentives for Palestinian resistance. The continuation of the Israeli occupation and the policies of siege, murder, demolition and uprooting of trees are the basis for this resistance. 

These dynamics may be summed up in that the continuing Palestinian resistance that is escalating with the growing Israeli oppression puts the Israeli government – which is belligerent and right-wing in the first place – in a crisis. The only way out of this crisis is a political solution, which Israel will not be able to achieve given its political position that opposes the peace process. Nor is a military solution feasible, as it would subject Israel to external criticism, as well as increase the intensity of the Palestinian resistance, thus reinforcing the internal Israeli crisis and Israel’s hostility. 

From a strategic point of view, the principal option in front of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is “total war” – that is, raising the intensity of the conflict to a point where Israel can use its full military strength to achieve two goals in the shortest period of time. The first is to extinguish the Intifada and the second is to cancel any achievements of the Oslo process and subsequent accords (which Sharon has been opposed to in principle for the past 10 years). 

This would strengthen the prospect of the second possibility, which is the preparation of a draft law in the Israeli Knesset that would annul the law holding Israel responsible for implementing the Oslo, Wye River and Hebron accords. 

It is obvious that Israel is using the present to prepare and brace the internal and external situation for an Israeli move for escalation and a total confrontation. That is why all its diplomatic and media energy is being directed at creating an impression that what is happening is organized terrorism that cannot be tolerated and must be squashed by force. 

Israel is also trying to prepare Israeli public opinion for war. It has come a long way in this regard; public opinion polls indicate that over 70 percent of Israelis support the policies and actions of the Sharon government. The only obstacle now is American, European and Arab efforts that are pushing for self-restraint. Sharon is trying to neutralize this factor. He will wait for the right moment, one providing him with justification and difficult to oppose. 

The situation now is reminiscent of the period before the Lebanon invasion. The preparations, which lasted almost a year, were more or less the same. They ended with using the assassination attempt on Israel’s ambassador in London as an excuse for war. 

In this context, the positions, choices and atmosphere of the Arab world are important. The more interaction and solidarity exists between the Arab peoples and between Arab officials, the higher political price will be paid by Israel and the United States, should such an escalation occur. For this reason, the advancement of Arab-Palestinian coordination and cooperation is now of utmost importance.

Mr. Ghassan Khatib is the publisher of the Palestine Report.

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