It is no small thing that the civilized world is rallying to Israel's side in its vigorous efforts to stamp out the Palestinian attacks. In the face of a no-nonsense President Bush, it seems that Arafat is no longer persuading anyone with his empty promises. And despite the protests of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, it appears that Arafat will finally be compelled to call a halt to the terrorism. But, the real crunch will come when negotiations begin again. It is apparent that the ire of the United States and the European Union directed at the Palestinians is based upon their desire to have the violence cease as a prelude to the resumption of the talks. Thus, they are all demanding, first and foremost, an unconditional cessation of all Palestinian violence. But once that happens, a far different dynamic will kick in.
Indeed, it is clear that the IDF's current response to terrorism was made possible by a correct reading of the changed atmosphere in the Bush administration following the Muslim fundamentalist attacks on September 11. However, while Arafat's much heralded speech the other day was greeted by worldwide calls for him to back up his words with action, Secretary of State Powell also spoke with Egypt's Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher and told him that Arafat can expect a positive Israeli response if his call to end violence is carried out. Secretary Powell also assured the Palestinian leader that the Bush Administration still backs the establishment of a Palestinian state, wants Israel to give up territory for peace and wants a halt to construction of homes for Israeli Jews on the West Bank and in Gaza.
And one also hears from Arafat and his lieutenants that they are anxious to get back to the table. Of course, nothing has really changed since the collapse of Camp David when the Palestinians rejected the Barak Plan and returned to violence except the resolve of Israel and the support it has from President Bush, et al. So what exactly should the Palestinians expect differently from Israel?
In sum, Arafat is really back to business as usual. He turned the Middle East inside out thinking he could get a better deal in another round of talks. And, as it now appears, he will be able to return to the table without any cost to his position. All he has to do is stop what he shouldn't have done in the first place and for this he is guaranteed American support for the Mitchell Plan which goes beyond the Barak proposals. He has already been promised in advance of any negotiations that the U.S. will support the creation of a Palestinian state. And of course, he has also been assured that if he stops killing Israelis he can expect to get additional concessions from Israel.
Unfortunately, this is all too reminiscent of the Clintonian “pressure” on Israel which served only to reward Palestinian terrorism. And we have seen in graphic detail what that leads to.