Israel Report

March 2003         

The Unstrung Quartet

By Paul Greenberg - March 3, 2003
Road Map to Disaster
Special Section
Still another peace plan has been composed for the Middle East, this time by the Quartet - a loose consortium of the United States, the United Nations, the European Union, Russia and maybe anybody else who would like to join in on the oboe or submachine gun.

The Quartet plays con brio. Which figures. It takes a certain gusto - some would say hubris - to put forward peace plans for others while the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia can't decide on how to make peace, or even war, with Iraq.

This latest composition ("Peace Plan, K872 for Unstrung Harp, Violin Cases and Dynamite") is really a reworking of the earlier classic, Land for Peace. The overture, Land, was going well until it came to the Peace part, which never materialized. Talk about an unfinished symphony.

The incentive for the Israelis to accept this latest ticking package is (again) the promise of peace and security. In return the Palestinians would get their own state, but that's never been a sufficient incentive. Or there would have been an Arab state next to the Jewish one long ago. Instead, every time the Arabs of Palestine have agreed to cease fire, it's been to reload.

Instead of a state, the leaders of Arab Palestine, at least since the Grand Mufti's time, have been much more interested in a terrorist base. Now they've got one, for that is what their sad little split-up and surrounded proto-state has become.

For their part, the Israelis continue to disappoint the United States, the United Nations, the European Union, the Russians and certainly the terrorists by fighting back. They refuse to slink away and just wait for the next suicide attack, rocket assault or general offensive. Instead they seal off cities, go after terrorists and generally decline to be victims. The sad rule in human affairs is that no peace can be imposed till the war is concluded, and right now this one is raging.

For its own disparate reasons, the Quartet pretends that Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Yasser Arafat's Al Aksa Brigades and the whole terrorist nexus called the Palestinian Authority want a state of their own more than anything in the world. And that all the Quartet need do is offer them one, and peace will break out.

Here's what all these diplomats don't want to admit, though surely they must know it: It isn't the prospect of a nice little state living in peace with its neighbor that brings all the Arab factions out in the street, firing their rifles, dancing and shouting and tossing candy. If they'd just wanted a state of their own, they could have had it years ago, decades ago. They could have accepted a Palestinian state at Camp David in 2000, or at Oslo the previous decade, or after the Six Day war in 1967, or at Lake Success in 1947, or when Britain's Peel Commission suggested it in 1937, or . but, as Abba Eban once put it, the Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Why is that? Because it is not the creation of a state that rouses the greatest enthusiasm in Gaza or Nablus, but the destruction of one, namely Israel. What would Palestine be, the 23rd Arab state? How enthusiastic can even its subjects be about bringing still another sordid little Arab dictatorship into the world?

But the prospect of wiping out Israel, if necessary one agreement at a time, à la Oslo, still rouses the Street. And remains the ultimate aim. Else, the Palestinian Authority would have grabbed the concessions that Israel's then popular leader, Ehud Barak, offered at Camp David: a Palestinian state that would have included almost all the still disputed territories plus a share in Jerusalem.

If the Palestinian Authority's aim was only a nice little state living alongside Israel in peace and good will, why did it insist on a Right of Return for the descendants of the generation that fled at Israel's birth - a return, tellingly, not to a prospective state just on the West Bank and in Gaza, but to Israel's heartland? That way, millions of returnees could do what Arab armies couldn't in war after war: overwhelm the Jewish state.

It's not the borders of the Jewish state that have been the essence of the dispute all these years but its very existence. And so the Quartet plays on, meaninglessly. So does the Middle East, heavy on percussion.

©2003 - Tribune Media Services

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