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More of the same, from Israel

I have a friend, a former coworker, who has included me on a list of people to whom she forwards items about what's happening in Israel and Palestine. It's not too heavy a rain, more like a patter — maybe two a week (including, recently, the full text of Thomas Friedman's column from last Sunday (but not his column from yesterday, though it was also good and she sent a number of links yesterday, too)) — and the items aren't bad, even mixed with the encouragement to write to politicians and get invested in the process and all.

If anything, I'm glad that she's found some way to express her concerns about what's going on. And I don't mind getting the emails, as unhelpful to me as they may be — it's good to have the reminder that what's happening is important.

But no matter how many reminders I get, and how much I read, I still don't see that there's really anything one can say about the situation. It remains as muddled and uncertain as it has ever been, and the chief players, it seems, cannot be reasoned with. Where does that leave us?

Take the suggestion Friedman made yesterday, that the only way out is for Israel to withdraw from the occupied areas and for Western troops to intervene (he quotes "Middle East expert" Stephen Cohen, who says "the only solution is a new U.N. mandate for U.S. and NATO troops to supervise the gradual emergence of a Palestinian state — after a phased Israeli withdrawal — and then to supervise its borders").

Now, it makes sense to me that something like this must happen eventually for any sort of lasting peace to be possible. But finding the path to a lasting peace isn't the real problem for the moment — it's removing those elements that don't want peace in the first place. And that's the thing no one can yet see a way out of.

No outside force can ultimately stop the Palestinian terrorists. Their own people must stop them, both by physically intervening and by socially reprimanding them. So long as they are considered martyrs, there will be more of them.

Maybe effecting a peace plan would turn populace against terrorist, but how can Israel accept the risk it won't? (Even if she could, it seems pretty clear that she won't.)

So war — the only remaining way to minimize the terrorists' opportunities to strike — seems inevitable. The only realistic hope I can see is that once the futility and destructiveness of terrorism is made plain to everyone, there will be a consensus against it, among Palestinians and Israelis alike. Then, Israel can possibly withdraw, and it will make sense to talk about Friedman's ideas in earnest.

This is a grim conclusion indeed. But I don't know what else to think.

April 4, 2002 2:01 AM

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