As I See It |

As I See It

Is it going to require the extermination of either the Palestinians or the Israelis before there can be peace? And just how long will that take?

In the year and a half before the rash of suicide bombings erupted at the end of March, the score was 1,230 Palestinians killed to 460 Israelis. With a Palestinian population of 3.1 million, it would take 3,780 years to kill them all, assuming no natural increase in population. Then in just five days of suicide bombers, four Palestinians succeeded in killing 45 Israelis, reversing the field. At that rate, half a million suicide bombers could finish off the 5.8 million Israelis in 1,765 years.

But Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s current give-no-quarter offensive, which is estimated to have caused 300 to 500 Palestinian deaths, has swung the balance back in the Israelis’ favor. Continued at that pace, it would exterminate the Palestinians in about 300 years, about as long as the killing has been going on in Northern Ireland.

Obviously this discussion is nothing more than an exercise in the mathematics of the ridiculous. But the fact remains that there is no end in sight to this human tragedy.

The reason is that in 1948, the Western powers gave most of Palestine to the Jews as the state of Israel. Since then, Israel has expanded its influence by building settlements in Palestinian territory. The Palestinians’ obvious response was exactly the same as that of the Native Americans in the face of advancing settlement on their lands by Europeans.

At first they responded by throwing stones at Israeli soldiers, and then tried to confront Israeli tanks with hand-held weapons. When neither of these methods were effective, the Palestinians, in their hatred and frustration, finally turned to the only weapon for which there was no effective defense – the terrorist bombing.

As the situation continued to deteriorate and was clearly headed for a catastrophe, our president fiddled by telling Yasser Arafat to stop the suicide bombings, while he devoted his attention to Republican Party fund-raisers. It is undoubtedly true that Arafat has not just turned a blind eye to terrorism, but has most likely encouraged it.

And Ariel Sharon’s indiscriminate and brutal attack on the Palestinian people has only served to greatly increase the number of young people who are willing to sacrifice their lives. They see no hope for their future as long as they are dominated by Israel.

Sharon has turned out to be the Milosevic of Israel, burying whole families in the rubble of their own homes, shutting off water and electricity, preventing medical aid to come to their assistance, and excluding media coverage from the areas of his crimes. This is nothing new for Sharon, for he has long subscribed to the adage that the only good Palestinian is a dead Palestinian.

By waiting too long to get involved, the Bush administration allowed the situation to blow totally out of control. In the eyes of the Arab world, our steadfast support of and massive shipments of armaments to Israel have given Sharon the means to launch his current attack on the Palestinian people. Arab countries may unite in launching a major attack on Israel to support the Palestinians.

What this would do to our relationship with the Arab countries, and to making the United States a target of Arab terrorism even more devastating than the World Trade Center disaster, cannot be calculated. But when Israel’s actions threaten our interests and our national security, it is time that we take a tough stand and let Israel know that the tail is no longer going to wag the dog.

The United States and Europe should adopt a more even-handed policy and impose that policy on both sides. Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah has proposed a separate Palestinian state, an idea supported by Arab countries and widely recognized as the only way out of the present morass.

Two important elements are missing from that plan, however.

One is the status of Jerusalem, which both sides have been fighting over for decades. The only acceptable solution is to make it an international city under United Nations administration.

The other is an incentive for Palestinians to desist from further terrorist activities. The average income of Israelis is $18,900, compared to $1,500 for Palestinians, and unemployment rates are 9 and 25 percent respectively. Abject poverty among the Palestinians is going to make it difficult for the two countries to exist side by side without continued animosity among Palestinians over this economic disparity.

A possible solution would be for Israel to pay rent (not tribute) to the new state of Palestine for the portion of the former Palestine now occupied by Israel. The cost to Israel could be far less than the heavy armament burden and the cost in lives and security measures.

The payments to Palestine would give that country a source of capital to build up its economy, and provide a disincentive for further terrorist attacks on Israelis. Continued payment of rent and the Palestinians’ economic future would be contingent on a cessation of hostile acts against Israel.

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