Conrad Black: Hope for Peace in the Mideast?
The recent exchange of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit for a thousand Palestinian prisoners in Israeli hands is regarded as a cautiously hopeful sign even by Israeli hawks, as it appears the only possible de-escalation from the absolute collapse of the peace process that was almost implicit in the Palestinian bid for full membership as a state in the United Nations. The Israeli Right was fiercely opposed to Palestinian statehood from 1948 until relatively recently, when it realized that the Palestinians could not be induced to leave territory Israel occupied after the 1967 war; could not be physically expelled, because neither domestic nor international opinion would tolerate such an outrage; and could not be assimilated, both because of natural Arab resistance, and because of the danger of Israel’s ceasing to be a Jewish state and homeland, which has always been its only raison d’être. (There were Israeli bi-nationalists, jolly progressives who wanted to share; Canaanites, i.e. complete secularists; and territorialists who had wispy dreams of settling in Uganda or Ethiopia — but none of them ever had any grasp of reality.)
The Palestine Liberation Organization under Yasser Arafat played the land-for-peace shell game for many years until — when offered all of Gaza, almost all of the West Bank, and a chunk of Jerusalem in an autonomous state, by Ehud Barak in 2000 — Arafat demanded the right of return (i.e., demographically to overwhelm the Jews within Israel with millions of supposedly returning Palestinians) and declared the second Intifada. Barak lost power to Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Left (“Peace Now”) perished, Sharon crushed the new Intifada, the bigotry of most of the Western media was exposed with the myth of the Jenin Massacre, Arafat died, Hamas gained control of Gaza (thanks to George W. Bush’s undiscriminating love of free elections, and the PLO’s corruption), so there was a three-state non-solution: two Palestines as well as Israel. Sharon made a settlement arrangement with the United States and vacated Gaza, uprooting Jewish settlers, and Gaza became a splendid launching ground for rockets killing Israeli civilians....
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