Sunday, March 31, 2002

I haven't had a whole lot to say about the current situation in Israel because, well, what can you say? But a few comments from the Palestinian side in this Times piece cry out for comment. First,

Palestinian officials say that Mr. Arafat cannot act against violence when besieged, or when he would seem to be functioning purely as Mr. Sharon's sheriff.

That second condition is a doozy. The premise of the Peace process, such as it is, is that Arafat can and will deliver the security that the Israelis require --- which is to say, that he will act as a sheriff. And as a condition of his existing agreements, he has already promised (several times) to do that. If he cannot, or will not, meet those commitments, what is the point of making another deal?

The implicit concession that Arafat actually could do more to restrain terrorism (he would, they say, if Israel would just adopt a different, more supine diplomatic posture) is just as remarkable.

They also come up with a totally random slur on the Israelis, for no other reason than that they have a Western reporter on the line:

... among numerous indignities Palestinians accused Israeli forces of capturing a television station and using it to broadcast pornography.

A United States consulate employee who was in Ramallah confirmed that the programs were on the air. The Israeli Army said soldiers interrupted the station's broadcasting but had not substituted pornography for the usual programming.

(I notice Glenn Reynolds is now reporting this slur as fact, having picked it up from the always-reliable Tim Blair).

Here's another:

Mr. Peres said that Israel would not harm or expel Mr. Arafat, and that it was restoring services to his compound. "Also, his compound is being guarded so he won't be hit," Mr. Peres said.

Told of Mr. Peres' claims, Mr. Abed Rabbo flatly dismissed them. "He is a liar," Mr. Abed Rabbo said.

He said Israeli forces had used bulldozers and tanks to flatten other buildings in the compound, and he repeated Palestinian claims that the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, was out to kill Mr. Arafat.

The article earlier noted that the Israelis had restored power and brought food and water into the barricaded compound (whoever says "beseiged" isn't clear on the concept), and that Arafat could hear Hebrew-speaking guards outside his door. If they wanted to kill him, why isn't he dead yet?

One of the sad things about this, by the way, is that Ariel Sharon is coming off as the good guy, at least by comparison, even though he has war crimes of his own to answer for at Sabra and Shatila, and even though he is widely credited as the architect of the settlements policy which involves continuing displacement of Palestinians, and which has been, and continues to be, an obstacle to peace; as even Tom Friedman has figured out, if the Israelis and Palestinians can't live together, they must live apart, and a policy of deliberately moving Jews onto land promised to the Palestinian authorities will not permit that.

But regardless, it is clear that the Palestinians are not negotiating in good faith, their intention is clearly hostile, and the Israelis will have to deal with them on that basis --- more's the pity, and the horror.


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