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"The horror, the horror," mumbles the Marlon Brando character in the film, Apocalypse Now. How thin, he reflects, is the veneer of our planetary civilization. How entirely inadequate, he understands, are the unsteady fences that protect us from humankind's most ruinous inclinations.
Now that Israel is again being pressured to follow a self-destructive "Road Map," a 23rd Arab state called Palestine is again in the process of being born. One serious but largely unforeseen effect of this grotesque birth (one in which only a gravedigger could wield the forceps) is greatly diminished "strategic depth" for Israel. Consequently there is a heightened probability of both conventional and unconventional war.
It is a familiar story. Israel, with nary a hint of meaningful reciprocity (reinforcing standing government policy of "Land For Nothing"), releases Palestinian terrorist prisoners. This time, in fact, Prime Minister Sharon even threw in amnesty for terrorists not yet apprehended.
My prior column in this special series dealt with the existential threat to Israel. To best deal with this multifaceted threat, Project Daniel recommended to Prime Minister Sharon that Israel do everything possible to prevent a coalition of enemy states from coming into possession of mass destruction weapons, and that this effort be undertaken while Israel continues with its longstanding policy of nuclear ambiguity.
Debate over Prime Minister Sharon's so-called policy of "restraint" continues to swirl. Among other things, our editorial last week expressing support for his measured responses to the escalating Palestinian terrorism drew more reaction than any Jewish Press editorial in recent memory. The letters from readers on the subject which appear this week are only a sampling of what we actually received, besides some really animated phone calls.
Prime Minister Sharon is not without his thoughtful critics over his policy of restraint. Those of us who have regularly argued that it is folly to signal to Arafat & Co. that there will be anything but horrible consequences to terrorism, can certainly understand the clamor for massive retaliation and an uprooting of the terrorist infrastructure. And those of us who have relentlessly pointed to the cynicism of the international approach to the Mideast conflict ? which is concerned more about how events fit into the prism of national interest than about notions of justice and truth ? can certainly understand the cry that public opinion be damned. Yet we still strongly believe in the appropriateness of the Prime Minister's course to this point.
The almost universal calls for ?solidarity? with Israel following in the wake of Reform leader Eric Yoffie?s announcement of the suspension of youth trips to Israel has underscored a curious dimension to the politics of the left. While the Sarid and Beilin crowd talk about American Jews demonstrating their support for the Jewish state, they continue to rail against Prime Minister Sharon for not agreeing to an immediate resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians despite the continuing violence, and for not ordering an immediate end to all construction on the so-called ?settlements.? Despite the lessons of the collapse of Oslo and the obvious and cynical refusal of Yassir Arafat to end the violence, the left persists in attacking Mr. Sharon for insisting that the violence must stop as a precondition to renewed talks. They would reward violence with political concessions while the prime minister would not.
Despite the terrible news late Monday of the driveby murders of Dan Yehudah of Chomesh and Doron Zisserman of Einav and other terrorist acts, there is the definite sense that there is an overall lessening of Palestinian violence. While we do not delude ourselves into thinking that the so-called cease fire is essentially anything other than Arafat?s latest ruse, one would have to be inhuman not to take some comfort in the fact that at least for the short run, less people will die or be maimed. And, because we think that a cease fire is in Arafat?s short term interest, we believe that one will take hold. Yet at the same time, while we savor the respite of sorts, we must also focus on the dangers that are already emerging.
As The Jewish Press is about to go to press Tuesday evening, Hamas spokesmen are still declaring that they have no intention of adhering to a cease-fire. Whether Arafat was serious or not when he declared a cease-fire the other day, the bottom line is that none is in the immediate offing. Yet one gets the sense that the Palestinians are indeed inching towards an interruption of hostilities.