A Ray of Hope in Israel
By Vin Suprynowicz
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
Since the days of T.E. Lawrence, Westerners have thrown up their hands in frustration at the inability of the Arab nations to demonstrate any useful unity.
Wouldn't it be ironic if the man who finally manages to accomplish that is Israel's new prime minister apparent, Benjamin Netanyahu.
"Since the election, Arab leaders have engaged in a flurry of contacts and meetings -- an unusual attempt at cooperation among countries that have remained divided since the 1991 Persian Gulf War," reported Salah Nasrawi from The Associated Press office in Cairo, June 3. In England last week, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat was calling on anyone who would listen for help in pressing Mr. Netanyahu to keep the peace process alive.
"The resumption of the negotiations is out of the question now," said Syrian president Hafez Assad, after nearly three hours of talks with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in Cairo.
"Things are not going in a positive way. We have to be fully alert and on guard," the Syrian leader said in rare public remarks. The Arab world was described as "gripped with apprehension" following the election of the Likud Party leader, who campaigned on promises of taking a harder line in negotiations with the Palestinians and Syria.
But a mixture of uncertainty, veiled threats and brave posturing are to be expected. In fact, talks with Syria -- a nest of terrorism whose peaceful intentions are doubtful at best -- had made little progress since they began in 1991. Those talks were suspended entirely after four suicide-bombings in Israel this spring.
The real question: Does the Likud victory advance or harm the long-term prospects for peace?
Much will be made in the weeks to come of how Mr. Netanyahu abides by his campaign promises to support the 400 token Israeli settlers in the overwhelmingly Palestinian West Bank city of Hebron, to immediately shut down the PLO headquarters in Jerusalem, and so on.
Probably, he will not be nearly as inflexible as he sounded on the campaign trail. This willingness to go back on his word will be praised as "flexibility" in Washington, though its main effect will be to fray the coalition of small religious parties which he must cobble together to form a government. "There will be a continuation of the peace process," he said last week.
None of this is likely to prove vital. Two questions are vital. Will the Israelis give up the hard-won and strategic Golan Heights in the north in exchange for a Syrian promise of peace, and will Likud finally live up to its own promises -- shoved to the back of the shelf under the last Likud government -- to end the stifling protectionism, central planning, and over-regulation of the Israeli economy, while allowing the Palestinians (particularly in Gaza) to develop any independent economy, at all?
The existing "peace accords" are far from perfect in that regard. They tie the Palestinians to the overregulated Israeli economy as through with an anchor chain, while turning Yasser Arafat into Israel's hand-picked policeman over his own people.
Under the current set-up, all Palestinians other than Mr. Arafat's men are scheduled to be completely disarmed, creating a situation which virtually defines the modern police state. It seems odd that Americans, who have long cherished their own Second Amendment rights, would endorse such a tyrannical -- and volatile -- state of affairs. Meantime, Hamas -- Mr. Arafat's main political opposition -- was banned from the ballot in the recent "elections." How would Americans respond to an "election" in which the Republican Party was banned from participation?
So the notion that Mr. Netanyahu's party might seek to change some of the ground rules of the current "peace process" is not all bad -- especially if any changes moved the Palestinians out from under one-party paramilitary rule, and toward a more diverse, independent, and free economy. Successful shopkeepers tend to have a lot less time for mischief than the frustrated unemployed.
But on one point it appears safe to assume Mr. Netanyahu will not waiver: his commitment not to trade the Golan Heights for a Syrian promise of peace.
And if that is true, then the hope of long-term peace has indeed just been considerably improved.
A unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the Golan today would be akin to the United States having volunteered to turn Pearl Harbor over to the Japanese as a "peace offering" in 1940. The tiger is not to be pacified with shivering weakness and fear, which only tantalize him with dreams of an easy meal.
As Ronald Reagan successfully demonstrated, peace is far more often won through demonstrated strength than perceived weakness. If the estimable Mr. Assad now senses that he is no longer up against some gullible patsy who may cave in to all his demands if he merely continues to sulk in his tent, so much the better. Real peace can only be based on mutual strength and respect.
Perhaps it isn't so odd, at all, that most of Israel's wars have been fought under Labor governments.
Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Readers may contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The web site for the Suprynowicz column is at http://www.nguworld.com/vindex/. The column is syndicated in the United States and Canada via Mountain Media Syndications, P.O. Box 4422, Las Vegas Nev. 89127.
A JUROR'S CREED: As an American juror, I will exercise my 1000 year old duty to arrive at a verdict, not just on the basis of the facts of a particular case or instructions I am given, but through my ability to reason, my knowledge of the Bill of Rights, and my individual conscience. -- L. Neil Smith
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