Doubt plagues Mideast

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As Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government completes its unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and the Palestinian Authority takes control, there is much skepticism about what will follow.

Both Israelis and Palestinians have been here before—as in 1993, when their respective leaders signed the Oslo Accord—with expectations that reason will prevail over emotion, leading to eventual peace with justice for both peoples.

But far from producing peace, the Oslo Accord was destroyed by further violence, the legacy bequeathed by the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to his people as a signature of his ruinous politics of demagogy, lies and terrorism.

There is every reason now to be skeptical, given the historical record.

Britain’s support for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, as contained in the famous Balfour Declaration of November 1917, was set within the context of the even larger support for independence of Arab lands between the Suez Canal and the Persian Gulf, which had been under Ottoman (Turkish) rule for over five centuries.

If Britain is to be faulted for the eventual birth of modern Israel, on the basis of the UN partition plan of November 1947, then it must also be faulted for the Arab states that emerged in this region over the defeated shell of Turkish power allied with Germany during WWI.

Between the two world wars of the last century, Palestinians opted to follow the siren call of Haj Amin al-Husayni—the Palestinian mufti, or religious leader, appointed by the British—into a dead end. The mufti became a friend and ally of Adolf Hitler, a choice that in no uncertain terms reflected the preferred politics of a “final solution” for Jews in Palestine if Palestinians and their Arab sponsors could bring it about.

Since 1948 and several subsequent wars with disastrous outcomes for Palestinians in particular and Arab states in general, the fundamental equation of Israeli-Palestinian politics remains basically unaltered.

Open and expectant

Israelis have not built a modern and democratic state to commit a collective suicide. They remain open and expectant to meet the requirements of the UN partition plan, with marginal adjustments precipitated by wars, to coexist in peace with their Arab neighbours, including a Palestinian state.

On the Palestinian side, it is an open question whether the requirements of peaceful coexistence with Israel have been embraced, or whether they will continue to pursue the lethal dream of Haj Amin al-Husayni.

Arafat spoke from all sides of his glib mouth. He played the role of a statesman for those in the West who wished a diplomatic end to a seemingly intractable conflict, and donned the garb of a Saladin for those in the region who would settle for nothing less than a bloody re-conquest of Jerusalem.

No other suffering people, be they Darfurians, Kurds or Tibetans, have received as much attention from great powers as Palestinians, and failed so miserably.

In 1977 there was no Jewish settlement movement worth noticing in the West Bank and Gaza when Anwar Sadat, the late president of Egypt, travelled to Jerusalem, met with Prime Minister Menachem Begin and other Israeli leaders, and addressed a historic session of the Israeli Knesset.

Sadat and then U.S. president Jimmy Carter subsequently sought Arafat’s participation in the 1979 Camp David Agreement with Israel—without success.

Arafat’s refusal was symptomatic of the Palestinian politics that Haj Amin al-Husayni represented before 1948, and is presently represented by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al-Qaida and its supporters worldwide.

Gaza’s return to the Palestinians is another chance for them to demonstrate to themselves and the world that they can disprove the skeptics.

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