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no time for magnanimity

  1. Snooker

    5,748 posts.
    Feb. 10, 2003
    EDITORIAL: No time for magnanimity

    In war, resolution; in defeat, defiance; in victory, magnanimity; in peace, good will. epigram by Edward Marsh, made famous by Winston Churchill

    It's like a rerun of a bad movie, US President George W. Bush said of the Europeans who seem ready to again let Saddam Hussein escape the UN's own noose.

    We seem to have our own bad movie, one in which every time Israel is on the brink of crushing Palestinian terrorism, we let up the pressure and offer to talk.

    One might expect, after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon won his second straight landslide on exactly this issue, that there would be no negotiations under fire.

    Sharon can hardly afford to break his commitment to the people of Israel on this issue, unless he does not mind being lumped by history with his predecessor, Ehud Barak.

    Sharon's defenders in the cabinet argue that there is a big difference between diplomatic negotiations under fire and talks about a cease-fire.

    There is something to this, but there are two major problems with attempts to make this distinction under the current circumstances.
    First, such negotiations have a way of slipping into the diplomatic realm.

    In the past, Shimon Peres deliberately tried to hammer out elaborate final-status-like frameworks while billing them as cease-fire talks. It is almost inevitable that such talks move from the modalities of a cease-fire to discussions of what comes next.

    Second, and perhaps more fundamentally, talking about anything at a time when Palestinian attacks continue apace violates Churchill's principle above. As a society, we have shown considerable resolution, and in the face of horrible atrocities, a face of defiance. But we seem to be in a rush to display magnanimity and good will before reaching a decisive victory, let alone peace.

    But, it is often asked, if we continue to refuse to talk, how can this conflict end? The Palestinians themselves, through their actions, show exactly how.

    On Wednesday, Yasser Arafat's office reportedly issued leaflets in the Gaza Strip calling for an end to mortar attacks against Israel. The leaflets stated that this was not only the responsibility of the Palestinian security apparatus, but that "ordinary citizens and the families of those responsible for the shooting bear responsibility, because the rocket fire harms everyone." The leaflet explained further, the tactic of mortar attacks must stop "because it doesn't change anything in terms of the Palestinian struggle, and like the suicide attacks against civilians, [they] harm the Palestinian cause and divert international attention from the dangers of the destruction sown by the Israelis."

    In other words, there is nothing sacred about any Palestinian tactic used against Israel. If the Palestinian leadership decides that the use of a tactic causes more harm than good, it will endeavor to stop it, without any negotiation with Israel.

    Yesterday, three Palestinians suicide bombers died when they smashed a booby-trapped car into an Israeli roadblock in the Gaza Strip. On Thursday, two suicide bombers were captured on the way to an attack, and two Israeli soldiers who were killed in an attack on their outpost near Nablus were buried.

    Despite talk of opposition to suicide bombing, the Palestinian Authority is not using its sizable police force to prevent such attacks, though their efforts to stop mortar attacks show that they could. They simply have not taken a decision to do so.

    The premise of talking to the Palestinians is that there is something Israel could say that would help. The United States does not even entertain such a notion with respect to al-Qaida; what reason do we have to believe that the terrorists attacking us are more amenable to gentle persuasion?

    In theory, the military pressure Israel is maintaining to stop the daily attempted attacks can be maintained regardless of diplomatic efforts. In practice, such efforts are usually accompanied by a decrease in military pressure, which in turn leads to more attacks.

    Further, Israel has tried a number of times the exact idea now being proposed. As Sharon's bureau chief, Dov Weisglass, told the media, what is being offered is to pull out of assorted Palestinian cities in exchange for Palestinian commitments to take control and prevent terrorism. How many times will Israel buy this same bridge from the Palestinians, only to be rewarded with another round of terrorism?

    Talking and fighting is a recipe for failure. Only the Palestinians can stop their war against us, and they will do so only when they come to the conclusion that it does not serve the Palestinian cause. And they will come to that conclusion only if all diplomatic fruits are denied them absent a complete and final end to terrorism. The only "road map" that can work is Churchill's: resolution until victory, and only then magnanimity and good will.

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