Tuesday, June 29, 2004

 

Is the intifada over?

Following Charles Krauthammer's June 18th op-ed declaring Israel's victory over the Palestinians, there has been much discussion over the validity of his argument. Bradley Burston of Ha'aretz examines Krauthammer's position and speaks with Danny Rubinstein, Ha'aretz's Arab Affairs Editor, for a more nuanced analysis of the situation. The evidence that best serves Krauthammer's position is, in his words:
What has happened...is an end to systematic, regular, debilitating, unstoppable terror -- terror as a reliable weapon. At the height of the intifada, there were nine suicide attacks in Israel killing 85 Israelis in just one month (March 2002). In the past three months there have been none. The overall level of violence has been reduced by more than 70 percent.
And in Burston's:
Last week, senior IDF officers at the Central Command, the army's overall West Bank headquarters, told a high-level briefing that the total number of suicide attacks and attempted suicide attacks had plummeted by 75 percent during the first half of the year, as compared with the corresponding period in 2003.

No less than 58 would-be bombers were arrested during that period, and more than 100 threatened attacks were headed off.

Moreover, for the first time in recent memory, the officers said that the Palestinian Authority had been making an effort to prevent terrorism, and had stopped transferring funds to the Fatah-linked Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
Of course, what happened during those three months free of suicide bombings? What has been the effect of the PA's crackdown on terrorism? No negotiations were started. Thousands of Gazans were made homeless in the IDF's "preparation" for the Gaza withdrawal. Progress was made towards building parts of the separation wall that cut the deepest into the West Bank. The IDF continued to raid West Bank cities looking for militants. And now the brief moment of relative quiet seems to be collapsing. On the Ha'aretz website's front page today, the following headlines confirm this: Shin Bet arrests terror cell suspected of planning murder, Al Aqsa Brigades kills Israeli man near Ramallah; troops question witness, Hezbollah fires at IAF jets flying near Lebanon; shrapnel lands in Galilee, Qassam claims first fatalities in Sderot, Hamas releases video of Gaza tunnel operation; dead soldier's parents blast army, and IDF raids northern Gaza as Qassams hit Sderot for second day. A recent poll of Palestinians found that "more than 70 percent of respondents voiced continued and unqualified support for suicide bombings." Rubinstein offers some insight as to whether declaring the intifada over, or the Israelis victorious, is, in the end, inconsequential.
Palestinians who supported the bombings knew that the attacks would not destroy the state of Israel, he says. "But they knew that they could do great harm to our daily lives, and it did."

Rubinstein maintains that the true infrastructure of terrorism does not lie in the stores or manufacture of arms and explosives, rather "in the motivation of the people, in their wish to get back at us. And the wish still exists."

Therefore, although Israel can reasonably claim victories in the war against terror, Rubinstein argues, "Israel has yet to find a way to end the intifada."

...

If there is to be a real end to the conflict, Rubinstein concludes."the government must find a way to reach a just agreement between the peoples. I believe that it is still possible. If it is not possible, then we are all doomed to die in this area.

"This entire conception, of fighting the intifada by launching operations, building walls, and making the Palestinians suffer more and more, is not an answer. In the long run, it will damage us even more."
When asked last week about the Krauthammer theory, Saeb Erekat dismissed the value of such statements. Should we wait for the next intifada in 2010, he asked, and again in 2020 and again in 2030? The key is to commit to a negotiated peace process. If the PA is working to stop terror and calling for elections and this kind of thing, it seems to me that they are ready to enter negotiations. If Israel needs the intifada to end in order to begin negotiations, then by all means, let's call it over. But, as Rubinstein points out, the motivation, the desire, of Palestinians to enact violence against Israelis will not disappear with an Israeli declaration of victory, a Krauthammer op-ed, nor even with the loss of support from the US, Europe, Israelis, or other Arab nations. If the opportunity to jump start the peace process that was presented by those three months free of suicide bombings is now past, the intifada will not have ended and the "victory" will have been a fleeting one for Israel.

Comments:
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Bill Adams
 
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