Misconceptions abound in the Middle East, a region torn by conflict for decades. The abundance of anti-Israel sentiment both on campus and in the media beg the need for a fair perspective on the current crisis. Since the inception of the Oslo peace process seven years ago, I hoped desperately to see the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; I trusted the Palestinians wanted peace as well. Recent events have altered my view of reality, crushing the hopes of those who desperately want this terrible tragedy to end. At this summer's Camp David summit, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians far-reaching concessions in an attempt to bring about a lasting peace: an offer of over 90 percent of the West Bank, a territorially contiguous Palestinian state, reparations for refugees and substantial control of Jerusalem. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat rejected the most generous bid of any Israeli prime minister and gave no counter-offer. When Arafat's attempt to achieve his goals through negotiation failed, he began an unsuccessful world tour to garner support for a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood. A Palestinian state should come about through negotiation, the international community replied. So on to Plan C: Achieve international sympathy by sending your people to be killed. How was the negotiating table suddenly abandoned for the battlefield? "We must continue this uprising to change the rules of the negotiations," explained Marwan Barghouti, the West Bank head of Arafat's Fatah party. In other words, the current violence is a deliberate Palestinian attempt to achieve through force what could not be achieved through negotiation. Right-wing politician Ariel Sharon's ill-timed September visit to Jerusalem's Temple Mount, a site holy to both Jews and Muslims, was the excuse for Arafat to unleash his well-orchestrated plan to ignite conflict by sacrificing Palestinian rioters and creating an international outcry that would condemn Israel and push it toward concessions. The result has been tragic: More than 130 people have been killed, most of them Arabs. Arafat's encouragement of confrontation is obvious. State-run media and school textbooks instruct Palestinians to murder Jews. The Palestinian Authority has called strikes and closed schools to get rioters into the streets; it gives youths transportation to points of confrontation and provides them with rocks to throw. Ehud Barak has repeatedly urged restraint, condemning Jewish vigilantism and pulling troops and equipment back from points of friction. Not once did Arafat condemn the violence; he has repeatedly encouraged his people to continue their intifada. Arafat has freed dozens of terrorists. And the Palestinian police and Tanzim militia, who are largely under Arafat's control, attack Israeli targets with not rocks, but guns, firebombs and explosive devices. Arafat must rearrest terrorists, urge calm among his people and instruct his forces to stop attacking Israelis. The Israeli and Palestinian people are the ultimate victims of Arafat's unwillingness to finally bring about an end to conflict. Arafat can either call off the violence and work again to negotiate a peace that would bring dignity and statehood to the millions of Palestinians who have lived for generations in destitution without rights or a country, or he can extend the violence and allow more people to die -- and then ultimately return to the negotiating table. Because whether it happens now or in another generation, there is no alternative to a peace in which Israelis and Palestinians live side by side.Comments powered by Disqus
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