Tags: Abbas | and | Sharon: | Lasting | Peace?

Abbas and Sharon: A Lasting Peace?

Wednesday, 04 June 2003 12:00 AM

Palestinian radicals must be disabused of their fantasy of destroying Israel, epitomized by their mantra, "from the river to the sea." The last poll taken of Palestinians by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Centre in June 2002 on this issue reported, "Popular opinion increased its radicalization when 51.1 percent said that the aim of the Intifadah is to liberate all Palestinian land (historic Palestine) as opposed to 42.8 percent who said the Intifadah's aim is to end the Israeli occupation."

Israeli fundamentalists must be forced to accept that there can be no peace while Israel retains sovereignty over all of Judea and Samaria – the West Bank. The number of Israelis that still want to keep the West Bank, according to a recent poll taken by Maariv, a leading Israeli newspaper, is 32 percent, with 62 percent supporting "ending the Israeli occupation of the territories."

Back in the early '70s, when I was a congressman, I was visited by Israeli Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren, now deceased. Rabbi Goren told me that he had been an Israeli army paratrooper in the Six-Day War, when the West Bank and the ancient walled city of Jerusalem were liberated. He emphasized that it was God's will for Jews to once again be sovereign in all of their ancient land, including Judea and Samaria.

I said, as I recall, "Rabbi, that is ridiculous." I said to him in our conversation and later publicly stated that I believed the West Bank would ultimately have to be returned to the Arabs.

On one of my subsequent trips to Israel following that conversation, Ariel Sharon gave me one of his famous helicopter tours of the West Bank. From above the hilltops of the West Bank, Sharon pointed out the need for Israeli settlers to live in that area so that invading Arab armies could be held off while Israel mobilized its critical reserve forces, which requires 48 hours. I was persuaded, and changed my position.

Sharon has come a long way since his educational helicopter tours. At age 75, he undoubtedly feels the hands of time and has a vision of a peaceful future for the promised land. He may very well be the patriarch who can achieve that. Like most if not all patriarchs, he too is flawed; nevertheless, he is an extraordinarily able, intelligent and courageous person.

Recently, Sharon uttered the magic words needed to begin the major effort to break the existing impasse. He had already publicly accepted both the Tenet and Mitchell plans calling for an end to any new West Bank and Gaza settlements. He now has stated, to the consternation of Israeli hardliners, "Holding 3.5 million Palestinians under occupation is a bad thing for Israel, for the Palestinians and for the Israeli economy." He is right.

I can't help but recall a brunch I had with Sharon and his wife, Lily, on his Negev ranch years ago. I said to him, "Arik, I love you and I don't want you to die. You are overweight and must go on a diet." He replied, "I hardly eat." It's hard to accept unpleasant facts, but necessary. Regrettably, he is still too heavy, but so am I.

Sharon, of course, cannot achieve peace without a peace partner. His Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, according to The New York Times, "knows that the war is a disaster for the Palestinians. Nearly two-thirds of those in the West Bank and Gaza are living below the poverty line. More than 2,000 have been killed; 30,000 more have been wounded. Some 580 schools have closed, as students cannot get to them. And polls of Palestinians now show a decisive majority favor an end to violence."

Abbas and Sharon now have the opportunity to end the cycle of violence and create peace as a lasting legacy for their respective peoples.

Abbas must smite Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations and destroy them, if they will not give up violence. Sharon similarly must take on the Jewish extremists seeking to keep all of the ancient provinces of Judea and Samaria, and begin the process of removing them.

For me the Barak plan, providing for a land swap and saving a significant number of settlements, makes sense. The Bush administration must remain actively involved as a mediator between the parties. The surrounding Arab nations, for their part, have an obligation to support the peacemaking efforts and end their sponsorship of terrorism and anti-Semitic hatred taught in their mosques, schools and media.

Ultimately, it is up to Abbas and Sharon to put the past behind them and achieve what has eluded their peoples for far too long – a secure and lasting peace. If they do, their names will be eternally blessed.

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Palestinian radicals must be disabused of their fantasy of destroying Israel, epitomized by their mantra, "from the river to the sea."The last poll taken of Palestinians by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Centre in June 2002 on this issue reported, "Popular opinion...
Wednesday, 04 June 2003 12:00 AM
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