On Point: Babies, Shekels and Bullets


by Austin Bay
April 10, 2002

On the Israeli side, the settlements policy, a land-grab byreligious radicals who believe God promised them the land from the "greatEgyptian river to the Euphrates," politically undermined efforts at economicintegration.

On the Palestinian side, Yasser Arafat's corrupt governmentsapped development. Iraq, Iran and Syria still fund militants, becauseendless war furthers their interests. Apocalyptic Islamists cast 2002 in therhetoric of self-serving triumphalism. For Islamists, if the Palestinianpeople are destroyed in the process of destroying Israel, so be it.

The Palestinians bear a high degree of responsibility for theircurrent hell. Suicide bombing campaigns do not incline minds to supportlegitimate Palestinian demands. The rejection of Ehud Barak's 2000 peaceoffer was a terrible mistake, though arguably that offer was rushed, moreappropriately made in a post-Saddam era.

The Israelis are in the process of militarily smashing theIntifada's infrastructure. As they withdraw from Palestinian cities, theywill leave behind surveillance assets.

But after the withdrawal? One proposed Israeli government"solution" to the demographic war is to build "the Wall." The JerusalemWall, like the Berlin Wall, will divide populations.

A wall around Israel will reduce the threat of terror attacks, alegitimate goal. However, it will never bring peace. The West Bank willbecome a zone of permanent deprivation, a ghetto of sorts. Jordan couldtopple into ethnic chaos. Inside the Wall? This "Fortress Israel" isn'tParadise. One 2020 projection sees an urbanized sprawl of 6.5 millionIsraeli Jews, with 3 million Israeli Arabs. Do the math, for the baby battleaffects ballots. Israeli Arabs will have a third of the votes. What happensthen? A move to "curb" Arab democratic rights? Arab expulsions? AnotherWall? Building walls risks turning Israel into just another Middle Easternethnic and religious autocracy.

What's the alternative? Ironically, a larger war, one aimed atregime changes in Iraq and Syria, would in the long haul improve Israeli andPalestinian prospects. The defeat of zealots is essential. Arab moderates(they do exist) lack the ability to tackle their zealots. That means theIsraelis will have to do it for them (which they are, with guns). TheIsraelis, however, must also defeat their own radicals. The settlements mustbe withdrawn.

The real alternative is shekels. As impossible as it seems, thatdream of economic integration still represents the best prospect forlong-term peace and justice.

To find out more about Austin Bay and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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