As of this writing, the situation in Israel has gravely deteriorated. The Palestinians have exploded into murderous rage, into violence, and into bloodshed. Almost 100 people Israelis and Palestinians have been killed. Close to 1,000 have been injured. Can this situation be calmed by Israel's making further concessions to the Palestinians?
What are the facts?
Benjamin Netanyahu is routinely described as a "hard-liner". That is a thoughtless and malicious characterization. Netanyahu was elected on the promise that he would bring peace with security to his country. His insistence that Mr. Arafat must strictly adhere to his commitments under the so-called Oslo Accord does not make him a "hard-liner". It makes him a prudent steward of his beleaguered country's destiny.
But the Arabs were determined to find a pretext to riot, to engage in bloody confrontation. The pretext that was fixed upon by Mr. Arafat to whip his followers into a killing frenzy was the opening of an entrance to an archaeological tunnel that has been a tourist attraction in Jerusalem for eight years. The tunnel and its entrance in no way desecrate any Islamic holy places. The pretext of the "offensive entrance" to the tunnel is total nonsense.
What makes their hypocritical moral indignation to this alleged desecration particularly disgusting is that during the 19 years that the Jordanians occupied East Jerusalem prior to the Six Day War, they drove all Jews out of their part of the city, destroyed all synagogues and Jewish holy places, and used the headstones of Israeli cemeteries as paving stones and to build latrines. The world, now so critical of Israel, stood silently by.
The world has come to expect the "Moslem fanatics" to commit unspeakable crimes and acts of terror. Tens of thousands have been and are being killed in Afghanistan; many more are being killed in Sudan; the horrors committed by the Iraqis and the Iranians defy description. The bloody rioting in Israel under the ridiculous pretext of a tunnel entrance was carefully prepared and orchestrated by Arafat and his cohorts, in an attempt to destabilize the peace process and to press for further concessions by Israel.
The previous Israeli government imprudently allowed Yasser Arafat to form a fully armed and equipped "police" force that now numbers 45,000 men (an ever increasing number up from 30,000 soldiers disguised as police less than three years earlier). That is without question the highest "police to population" ratio anywhere in the world. But these are not really "police", of course; these are soldiers, trained and prepared to attempt the destruction of Israel in the final assault, when, in their hoped-for independent state, the Arabs, in concert with their Iranian allies, will attempt the final destruction of the Jewish state, a destruction that, so far unsuccessfully, they have unremittingly attempted for almost 50 years. The cat was let out of the bag. At the first perceived "provocation" (the opening of an entrance to a tunnel) the Palestinian "police", instead of holding the howling Palestinian mob in check, opened fire on the Israelis. Civil war was in progress.
Those who believe that peace with the Arabs can be obtained by making concessions to them and by giving them land are dreamers. The vaunted peace with Egypt is a sham. The Egyptian government misses no occasion to insult Israel and to derogate it in the council of nations. Egyptian newspapers spew daily obscenities against Netanyahu and against Israel. Egypt, a totally impoverished country, sustained primarily by the generous yearly stipend of the United States and by the oil fields that Israel has developed for them in the Sinai, is armed to the teeth with the most advanced conventional and "unconventional" weaponry and is frantically engaged just as Syria, Libya, Iraq, and Iran in the production of atomic weapons, biological weapons, and poison gas. What for? The answer is obvious. It's all for the next hopefully final assault against Israel that will finally drive the hated Jews into the sea and make Israel disappear from the earth.
For Israel to allow itself to be dismembered, allowing the creation of a Palestinian state, and be made helpless and at the mercy of its sworn enemies, would be suicidal folly. It would ultimately beget a terrible nuclear war, in which much of the Middle East would be destroyed and the interests of the United States fatally and irretrievably damaged. A strong Israel is America's most reliable anchor in the Middle East. All the other dominoes have fallen or are likely to fall very soon. Iran was America's great ally; it is now our most implacable enemy. Saudi Arabia, the kingpin of our Arab policy, is shaky and could be toppled any day by internal unrest. Turkey, considered the "eastern flank of NATO", has just elected an Islamic fundamentalist government. Israel alone is America's steadfast friend in the entire Middle East, a friend that has the means, the determination, and the resources to back up its own interests and those of the United States. What enormous folly of successive U.S. governments, including the present one, to attempt to weaken Israel by pressing it to make further concessions to the Arabs and to the Palestinians, especially the pressure to divest itself of strategically indispensable territory, to allow the formation of a hostile state in its midst, and to yield part of its capital.
Recent events have shown that any pretext, however flimsy, will suffice to provoke Arab/Muslim fury. Without any provocation, the Palestinian police turned its weapons on Israel, which so generously had granted the Palestinians a wide measure of autonomy.
There are many minorities in the world the Basques in Spain and in France; the Kurds in Iran, Turkey and Syria; the Hungarians in Romania; the Turks in Bulgaria and so many more, who would be deeply grateful if they were given even half of the autonomy that Israel is granting the Palestinians. But, in the interests of the world, the interests of the United States, and, of course, the existential interest of Israel itself, we must hope that Mr. Netanyahu will stand firm against all pressures: That he will not allow the creation of a Palestinian state in the "West Bank"; that he will not yield the strategic Golan to Syria; and that he will not countenance the division of Jerusalem.
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Gerardo Joffe, President