by Austin Bay
On the Israeli side, the settlements policy, a land-grab by
religious radicals who believe God promised them the land from the "great
Egyptian river to the Euphrates," politically undermined efforts at economic
On the Palestinian side, Yasser Arafat's corrupt government
sapped development. Iraq, Iran and Syria still fund militants, because
endless war furthers their interests. Apocalyptic Islamists cast 2002 in the
rhetoric of self-serving triumphalism. For Islamists, if the Palestinian
people are destroyed in the process of destroying Israel, so be it.
The Palestinians bear a high degree of responsibility for their
current hell. Suicide bombing campaigns do not incline minds to support
legitimate Palestinian demands. The rejection of Ehud Barak's 2000 peace
offer was a terrible mistake, though arguably that offer was rushed, more
appropriately made in a post-Saddam era.
The Israelis are in the process of militarily smashing the
Intifada's infrastructure. As they withdraw from Palestinian cities, they
will leave behind surveillance assets.
But after the withdrawal? One proposed Israeli government
"solution" to the demographic war is to build "the Wall." The Jerusalem
Wall, like the Berlin Wall, will divide populations.
A wall around Israel will reduce the threat of terror attacks, a
legitimate goal. However, it will never bring peace. The West Bank will
become a zone of permanent deprivation, a ghetto of sorts. Jordan could
topple into ethnic chaos. Inside the Wall? This "Fortress Israel" isn't
Paradise. One 2020 projection sees an urbanized sprawl of 6.5 million
Israeli Jews, with 3 million Israeli Arabs. Do the math, for the baby battle
affects ballots. Israeli Arabs will have a third of the votes. What happens
then? A move to "curb" Arab democratic rights? Arab expulsions? Another
Wall? Building walls risks turning Israel into just another Middle Eastern
ethnic and religious autocracy.
What's the alternative? Ironically, a larger war, one aimed at
regime changes in Iraq and Syria, would in the long haul improve Israeli and
Palestinian prospects. The defeat of zealots is essential. Arab moderates
(they do exist) lack the ability to tackle their zealots. That means the
Israelis will have to do it for them (which they are, with guns). The
Israelis, however, must also defeat their own radicals. The settlements must
The real alternative is shekels. As impossible as it seems, that
dream of economic integration still represents the best prospect for
long-term peace and justice.