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Stark Relief

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Prime Minister Sharon’s halting of all IDF actions against the Palestinians ‘except in cases of genuine danger to human life’ together with the renunciation of a cease-fire by Arafat and other Palestinian officials puts the current situation into stark relief. Arafat & Co’s. insistence that the Palestinians will not implement a cease fire unless Israel freezes settlement activity is just the latest evidence that the Palestinians have not abandoned violence as a political weapon. Indeed, despite the Mitchell Report call for a settlement freeze, President Bush welcomed Prime Minister Arik Sharon’s move and expressed hope that the Palestinians would match it – “I would be pleased to hear a similar statement from PA Chairman Yassir Arafat.” Yet we fear that the seeds of Arafat?s prevailing on this issue have already been planted.

Virtually all of the former ‘Osloniks’ who are now heard to lament the failure of the ‘Peace Process,’ invariably talk in one dimensional terms of Arafat’s rejection of Barak’s -unprecedented offer.’ They make little note of the consistent record of the Palestinians’ failure to meet their obligations under Oslo, and what that says both about their trustworthiness and their ultimate goals. They are also barely heard on the astounding Palestinian proposition that millions of Palestinians should have the unrestricted right to settle in a post-peace agreement Israel.

To us, the message is unmistakable. Should Arafat make the right sounds about accepting Barak’s offer in return for his oft recycled, unfulfilled promises, all would be forgiven and the Oslo crowd would be back in business with a vengeance.

Of course, the significance of the failure of Oslo and the Palestinian return to violence was that they revealed that Arafat and the Palestinians never had any intentions of making peace with Israel, and that they continue to have the destruction of the Jewish state firmly in mind.

What seems to be unfolding in the short run is a process which will persuade Arafat that the time has come to disingenuously take up the Barak offer and once again make some nice sounding promises he never intends to keep. This will work to break up the U.S. support Israel seems to be enjoying and also build pressure for Israel to, in fact, deliver on Barak?s proposed concessions. Arafat will then consolidate his gains and, at the appropriate time, restart the intifada.

This is not in the nature of ‘we told you so,’ but the disaster of Oslo – which we did predict – is about to be relived. Those who championed Oslo and thereby contributed to today’s crisis, have an obligation to repent – to step back and keep quiet at this time. There is a harsh reality they just will not face. The Palestinians simply will not do anything they don’t have to. The kind of Alice-in-Wonderland approach that brought Israel to this mess should not be allowed to be repeated.

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