The madness consuming the Middle East demands we stand back, and find answers to this question: if history is the expression of the choices people make, what are the choices the Israelis and
Palestinians have made and why did they make them?
And a central, perplexing question underpinning the dreadful mayhem is: ‘Why did Yasser Arafat seemingly snatch war from the jaws of peace, in July, 2000?’
Ehud Barak, then Prime Minister of Israel, made Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian people a significant offer: support for the creation of a State of Palestine within the boundaries of the UN
Conventions, withdrawal of Israeli settlers, a capital in Jerusalem, and ‘religious sovereignty’ over the Temple Mount area.
It was more than many Israelis were even prepared to contemplate. Whilst the offer was not clearly delineated and could have been stronger, it was a considerable advance on the status quo, and
any other previous Israeli offer.
Yet Arafat rejected the offer. Why?
Perhaps it simply reveals that a Palestinian state was never Arafat’s goal; perhaps he and the PLO are actually dedicated to the complete elimination of Israel; and that their rejection of
Barak’s offer reveals this truth in an undeniable way. If the elimination of Israel is Arafat’s true agenda, it supports the Israeli response, which is ‘If it is us or them, it won’t be
us!’ A scenario for the Israelis, then, of ‘Let loose then the dogs of war, close your ears to the screaming of the children, and make sure we have the biggest gun’.
This reality is self evidently wrong, in any moral or ethical sense. But what are the alternatives? Would a different analysis give rise to different options? This is not a question for
academic musing or philosophical exploration; there are people dying on both sides every other day.
An Israeli soldier makes his decision to pull the trigger to kill the Palestinian in his sights through his telescopic lens in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. This decision is an
expression of the decision he made when joining the Army. And his decision is the result of the decision made by his Government to go to war. A Palestinian teenager straps death to her stomach,
and makes her decisions for the same reason, through the same chain of events.
We must therefore look to the highest context, to where the chain of events starts. There are people in control, the Old Men: Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat.
Arafat is a general-of-war, not a governor-of-peace. He and his cabal know best how to wage war; it is all they have ever done the whole of their lives. Arafat started his career with the
founding of the Fatah organisation in 1965, later merged with the PLO. He and his cabinet do not know how to sustain peace; they have tried this and failed.
When Arafat accepted the humiliating 1994 Peace Accord, of the segmenting of his people into the Gaza Strip and ghettos of the West Bank, he achieved respite for an exhausted and defeated
people He, with Rabin and Peres also won a Nobel Peace Prize. Fatally, however, it did nothing to alter the status of the Palestinian people as victims, and the role of Israel as the oppressor.
The Peace Accord did not dissolve the glue, which binds the Palestinian people, and binds the Arab world to the Palestinians. For his part, Rabin was short-sighted in not seeing that he had done
no more than had been achieved by the Treaty of Versailles: planting the seeds of a new war in the battle grounds of the old.
Having brokered a poor peace, Arafat then made a poor governor. The Palestinian Authority under his leadership made a hash of government: the transition from Army to Civilian Authority failed.
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