Letter from Judith: Now What Should Be Done in Israel?

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Dr. Judith A. Klinghoffer is a senior research associate in the department of Political Science at Rutgers University, Camden. She is the co-author of International Citizens' Tribunals: Mobilizing Public Opinion to Advance Human Rights and the author of Vietnam, Jews and the Middle East: Unintended Consequences. Click here for her HNN blog.

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Here I go again with my advice. This time from Israel where the situation is fast deteriorating. Within days after the seemingly ground breaking Aqaba summit, in which the new Palestinian Prime minister dared call Palestinian targeting of civilians terror, they discovered that nothing has changed. A furious Yassir Arafat determined to prove his relevance struck back. No longer satisfied with cooperating with the rejectionists surreptitiously in order to keep Israel and the West in line, he began to cooperate with them openly. He not only permitted the Fatah (the Palestinian organization he founded and which is under his direct control) to join Hamas and Islamic Jihad the attack on Erez check point but permitted them to take joint responsibility for the attack.

"Do not have false hope," the attack seemed to say not only to Israelis and Palestinians alike. Nothing has changed or is about to change. After all, the Erez juncture is not just another checkpoint where citizens are blocked from carrying out their daily lives. It is the juncture through which the citizens of Gaza cross into Israel to work. It has been closed by the Intifada depriving thousands of their jobs. Taking a calculated potentially lethal risk, Israel agreed as part of its contribution to the success of the road map to reopen the juncture and allow again Palestinian workers to enter Israel. Thrilled Gazans were thrilled. Arafat and the Islamists were not. They had no intention to let Mahmoud Abbas demonstrate to the Palestinians that the end of violence carries tangible rewards.

In one master stroke Arafat ended the promise of Aqaba, demonstrated the powerlessness of the summiteers and scuttled any possibility of improving the life of the Palestinians.

Israel had to respond. Israel should have targeted Yassir Arafat. But not wishing to go back on his word to George W. Bush, Israel took out its wrath on a top Hamas leader named Rentisi. Having given up the hope that Abbas will take upon himself the dismantling of Hamas, a reluctant Israel Defence force did. The targeted assassination was botched but an all out Israeli - Hamas war has been launched. In short, the Israelis, Palestinians and Americans lost. Bloody shoes of dead and injured children are sure to fill the region's screens.

Why did the summiteers turn out to be so weak? Because Yassir Arafat succeeded in postponing indefinitely the Palestinian elections and Abbas is a leader who serves at the pleasure of Arafat. We are constantly told that Arafat would be elected and that Hamas is very popular but had it been so, they would be delighted to call for elections. Slobodan Milosevic believed the polls and called for elections. And surprise, surprise, he lost.

There is only one way to empower moderates. It is to provide people with an opportunity to vote and vote again. It is the need to get elected which forces Begin and Sharon to evict settlers and opt for a territorial compromise. After all, Begin was among the founders of the Herut party whose slogan was "There are two sides to the Jordan River. This is ours and the other too." In other words, it rejected the British creation of Jordan. Sharon is amongst the leaders of the settlement movement and had argued that Jordan is Palestine. Likewise, it is only the need to get elected and reelected by a pragmatic populace which would force a Palestinian leaders to come to terms with reality and end the havoc created by terrorists. At least two rounds of elections should precede the establishment of a Palestinian state. The time has come to realize that Arab-Israeli peace and regional progress will follow not precede Palestinian and regional democratization.

It is also time to stop buying the absurdity that Arafat is the legitimately elected leader of the Palestinian people. He has been elected once, if one can call it an election. His sole opponent was an elderly woman who ran because she wished to avoid creating a precedent of uncontested elections but she failed even to campaign for the post. A Palestinian friend compared those elections to the ones conducted by Saddam Hussein (98%). Since then Arafat scuttled all Palestinian demands for a second elections. He clearly does not trust his chances.

Bush almost forced him to hold an election -- Arafat announced that he will stand for reelection in January. Unfortunately, the Bush administration permitted him to postpone the date indefinitely and replace election with the appointment of a prime minister. Big mistake! If Bush wants to save himself from Clinton's humiliating experience, he better stop permitting Arafat to outsmart him. The only way to empower a alternative Palestinian leader is to legitimize him. The only way to legitimize him is through carefully monitored elections. Only election would make the Palestinian leaders depended on a population.

Citizens, unlike ideological elite, put their daily well being before their emotional demands for revenge. Many Palestinians may wish to see Israel destroyed just as many Israelis would love not to have them as neighbors. But both know these is merely wishful thinking and both will rather live together than continue to bleed.


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dave fryett - 6/21/2003

You are good at spotting anti-semites in much the same way joe mccarthy was good at finding communists! There is no "seeming" anti-semitism in piper's post. the baseless charge of bias is reflexive among zionist apologists. It has become the mother of all shibboleths.
there may have been some divergence of opinion regarding the level of clerical influence in israeli governance but that was a long time ago. One need only review the policies and statements of the likud to realize that debate is over. the likud is the jewish taliban! Israel's innumerable colonies, often miscalled settlements, are peopled by rabid jewish fundamentalists who are devoted to theocratic rule. And their eternal champion, ariel "the butcher" sharon, continues to have the support of the so-called secularists.
sharon, who has been accused of multiple war crimes spanning five decades, has refered to christians as "idiots" and muslims as "filth." He refered to the prophet muhamad as a "fag." so please, let's focus on the real bigots. You'll find them in the likud!

Corevan - 6/19/2003

While your statements carry some weight. They require much more analysis and fact than you provide in order to continue the debate.

This statement "a Jewish state (a theocracy contradicting, its claims to be a democracy)" is technically not correct. The founders of the state, like the founder of the US, struggled with this question. Is Israel a Jewish State or a State for Jews? A question they could not answer definitively and is still in debate today. The religious have hold of certain life cycle events that require government approval, marriage death that has right of return, but more secular forces have been attacking this recently. The perpetual assault on Jewish existence in the region has tilted the mindset more to the right.

Corevan - 6/19/2003


I think you need to get some of you historical facts straight before you make seeming anti Semitic statements.

R. Piper - 6/19/2003

Obviously, nothing can sooth a racist's soul like blaming the victims of 55 years of occupation, oppression, killings, torture and destruction, now imprisoned in concentration camps, surrounded by armed religous fanatics of the "chosen" tribe.

Ephraim Schulman - 6/18/2003

June 18, 2003
The proper advice for Prof. K. to give to the people in Israel is to revert back to their historical roots, In every society that the Jewish people found themselves they were discriminated against. Historically the Jewish people naturally desired and demanded where possible for equal treatment. The key word is equal. Now for the first time in centuries, the Jewish people have established a government which proclaims itself as a Jewish state ( a theocracy contradicting ,its claims to be a democracy ) and practices the very same discriminatory policies that they have opposed throughout their history. And so they glorify people like Sharon, Netayanou a monstrous lot. There will never be peace in the mid-east until the Jews of Israel treat ALL people equally even Palestinians.

Ephraim Schulman

Corevan - 6/16/2003


Judith's essay lays out clearly, that while there may be some actions taken by Israel you find objectionable, there is a real enemy we need to address before there can be peace.

Anyone interested in an enlightened discussion on this topic please see Don Williams and my comments on this very subject under the Daniel Pipes essay from last week.