The events of the past week have laid bare the three pathologies of the Palestinian conflict with Israel.
First we have the Palestinian rank-and-file.
Under the headline "Palestinians turn on tunnel men," Reuters reported Sunday that in the aftermath of the IDF's recent operations in Rafah aimed at uncovering underground tunnels used to smuggle weapons from Egypt to Gaza, Palestinians in Rafah have been threatening and attacking weapons smugglers. Mustafa, a tunnel smuggler told the news service, "Many people now oppose our work. I know of cases where people have noticed others digging a tunnel and they have assaulted them."
The essence of this story is that, in spite of what the Palestinians say, they know perfectly well just who is responsible for the IDF's actions in Rafah. It is not Israel that is morally responsible for the destruction of homes. It is the Palestinian terrorists who hide behind civilians in order to smuggle terrorist munitions who are responsible for the rubble.
A second report, by Ehud Ya'ari in The Jerusalem Report was even more groundbreaking. According to Ya'ari, (and my own Palestinian sources back the gist of his claim), there is a lively conversation going on in the Palestinian cities of Judea and Samaria about the necessity of reinstating the "Jordanian option." That option involves a renewal of the Jordanian role in Palestinian affairs and the regeneration or replacement of the Palestinian security forces under Jordanian control. Ya'ari reported that there is talk of deploying the Palestinian battalion of the Jordanian army and perhaps even building a new force of Palestinians from Jordan that would replace the PLO's militias.
It should be recalled that until the late King Hussein renounced Jordan's claims to Judea and Samaria in 1988, Israel and Jordan had a quiet, effective power-sharing arrangement in the areas. Palestinians from Judea and Samaria held Jordanian citizenship. The educational system was Jordanian, complete with Jordanian textbooks and matriculation exams.
The underlying understanding here among average Palestinians is that the PLO and its terror partners have failed the Palestinians. If the Palestinians are to have a chance of living a reasonable life and bring prosperity to their communities and security to their society, they must first replace the PLO and its Palestinian Authority with powerful moderates from Jordan.
What is strange about the entire idea is that Jordan would express even the slightest interest in adopting it. Jordan, after all, is a British invention. The Hashemites were imported from Iraq and the majority of Jordanians describe themselves as Palestinians. Indeed the Palestinian population of Jordan, which numbers 3.2 million out of Jordan's population of 5.5 million, is more numerous than the populations of Judea, Samaria and Gaza combined.
Why would Jordan risk destabilizing its kingdom by enabling a re-confederation of the Palestinian populations on both sides of the Jordan River? Ya'ari argues that it owes to US pressure. Yet with Washington's fixation on trying to "reform" the PA under the leadership of Arafat puppet Ahmed Qurei, that doesn't ring true.
More likely, it is due to the kingdom's understanding that regardless of the long-term consequences for Jordan of replacing the PLO, the long term consequences to the kingdom of allowing the PLO to remain empowered are worse.
In a poll released this week by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, Palestinians ranked Israel's democratic system as number one among the possible systems of government they would like to emulate. Israel outranked the US, France and Germany. That is, far from viewing Israel as the "apartheid state" it is constantly accused of being by the Palestinians themselves, the Palestinians actually view Israel's democratic system as the system of governance they respect and value most.
The second pathology is that of the PLO, backed by Europe and the UN. In Geneva this week, under UN aegis and Swiss funding, the "international community" held a donors conference for UNRWA – the UN's self-appointed wing of the Arab war against Israel. UNRWA is the only UN refugee relief service that has dedicated itself to preventing relief to refugees. This it has done for over 50 years by preventing Arab refugees from the 1948 War of Independence and their foreign-born families from being integrated in the countries where they have lived for generations.
They are restricted instead to the UNRWA refugee camps, which serve as terrorist havens where these people are indoctrinated in the arts of jihad. There they are kept as a weapon for the destruction of Israel, ready for battle as their misery is eternalized.
Although the conference was convened by the UN, one UN member state that no doubt has a thing or two to say about UNRWA was conspicuously absent from the guest list. Israel was not invited to the conference.
During the conference, which was touted as "apolitical," attendees were regaled by propaganda film after propaganda film, all financed by the generous contribution of the Swiss government.
These films painted a picture of the IDF intentionally seeking to murder Palestinian children and nastily and gratuitously destroying the homes of innocent Palestinians in Jenin, Rafah and elsewhere. In short, it was a blood libel.
While Israel was contemptuously barred from the conference, the Palestinians were represented by a full complement of PLO spokesmen who handed out slick literature to the conference participants. According to an Israeli journalist who was present, this included, "precise maps of where and how the UNRWA camp residents could take back their homes [in Israel] from 1948."
Here we see what the Palestinian leadership is about. Its aim is to destroy Israel and its primary resource for doing so is the misery of its people. Yet there is a wrinkle in this tale.
Although the Palestinians are increasingly admitting that their lives under Arafat's PA have become untenable, they are in no rush to replace him. Opinion poll after opinion poll shows that Arafat is still the most popular leader, followed on now by convicted mass murderer Marwan Barghouti. How do we square this circle?
We can understand this seeming contradiction when we realize that, still today, in the absence of another viable option, the overwhelming majority of Palestinians continues to view the destruction of Israel as their primary goal. While they reasonably seek out ways to improve their lots in life, which necessarily involve combating terrorism and replacing terrorist leaders with regular bureaucrats and politicians, they are neither willing nor able to let go of their strategic goal of destroying Israel. They view propaganda conferences like the one in Geneva as a useful tool in the war even as here, on the ground, they are willing to admit that such libels do not reflect reality.
Sadly it is in the Israeli government where the third pathology lies. Rather than admit the failure of the PLO option and search for different, better options, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Deputy PM Ehud Olmert are telling us that our menu of policy choices is limited to those that have already failed abysmally in the 11 years since we went down the garden path of coexisting with the world's most accomplished terrorist organization.
These policy choices are the very ones that Israelis rejected overwhelmingly in the 2001 and 2003 elections. In 2003 we rejected the plan to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza that Sharon gleefully forced his cabinet to accept on Sunday.
In 2001 we overwhelmingly rejected the plan to divide our capital city, and Olmert this week has told us that that is next on the agenda. That is, rather than joining forces with and strengthening the Palestinian rank-and-file as it quietly seeks out realistic policy options to sidestep the failed Oslo process, Sharon is insisting, in a breathtaking display of stupidity and irrationality, that we must resuscitate it.
In so acting, our government is telling the Palestinian rank and file that it should continue to support its destructive leadership as it carries out its rhetorical, political and terrorist war against Israel, for Israel offers them no other option. So it is that while on the ground Palestinians quietly try to make do and hope for something better, publicly they vent hatred for Israel and allow their children to be indoctrinated to jihad, thus ensuring the war's continuation for at least another generation.
Our government follows this destructive line of policy consistently in rhetoric and action. Rather than advance our war aim of destroying the PLO, we call for cosmetic reform and pledge to contribute to the refurbishment of its militias while touting Egypt, the primary logistical base for Hamas, as our savior. In practice we call for strengthening the PLO by accepting their paradigm for destruction that involves the dislocation of Jews from their homes in the Land of Israel, thus presupposing there will never be a chance for peaceful coexistence, again to the detriment of healing Palestinian society of jihad intoxication.
Israel should be doing just the opposite. We should, in crafting our rhetorical and political strategies, be working to undermine Palestinian radicals and escape the failed ideas that brought us the Oslo war that has killed nearly 1,500 of our countrymen since 1994. We should be embracing our democracy and the collective wisdom of our people rather than pandering to the ignorant harpings of our radical Leftist media and the intellectually lazy and politically hostile elite both here and abroad. We should be encouraging the Palestinians to shake off the chokehold of the PLO and thinking constructively about what we the role we need for Jordan to play.
In acting as we are, Israel is behaving monstrously. Sharon and his colleagues are strengthening our enemy, harming potential friends and besmirching the good name of Israel's democracy, which is applauded in surprising quarters as the exemplary system it once was.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.