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Globalization - Countries - Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Reforms Alone Are Not Enough

by Ze'ev Schiff, Ha'aertz   6/6/2002

The primary danger of the present over-engagement in the opportunity for reform of the Palestinian Authority is that although some reforms may indeed be put into practice, the terror will continue nonetheless. There is every indication that the Palestinians, many of whom support the adoption of reform measures, also feel that the acts of violence against Israel should not stop.

Israeli authorities would do well to warn the American emissaries of such a development - first and foremost CIA Director George Tenet, who has arrived in the region at President Bush's behest to see if conditions are ripe for the implementation of an American diplomatic plan. If this is indeed the prevailing trend among the Palestinians, we should not be asked to offer any concessions in exchange for their "reforms."

At meetings held by the American envoys, the same old ruses seem to be evident in what the Palestinians are saying. They say it is impossible to stop the violence - that is, the terror - all at once. In other words, two completely separate paths are being pursued; continuation of the armed conflict is one of them. If the diplomatic demands are met at some point down the line, it could be that the two paths will converge, at which time the majority of Palestinians would slowly but surely begin to advocate an end to the terror.

The Palestinians are setting conditions simply for the implementation of the reforms - which are supposed to be a Palestinian interest, as they are intended to create a democratic society free from corruption. They demand that Israel guarantee that while the reforms are being executed, it will not undermine the stability of the PA through military operations. As if to say that stability is not undermined by continued Palestinian terrorism, but by Israel's desire to defend itself from it. This stipulation means that so long as Palestinian terrorism continues, Israel will have to avoid responding to it. This sort of demand must be rejected out of hand.

Conversely, two other conditions set by the Palestinians may be accepted, with certain qualifications. They demand that Israel guarantee not to hold up negotiations, including talks on a permanent settlement, while the reforms are being implemented. If the terror is indeed halted, and the terror organizations are convincingly dismantled, we can accept this condition. In addition, we can also accept the condition that general elections for the PA include Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

Supportive evidence for the "simultaneous reform and violence" approach can be found in Arafat's own actions. He continues to assume that the Tanzim will remain an armed body even if the number of the PA's security organizations is reduced. Support of the reforms and the continuation of violence are also reflected in Palestinian public opinion.

A poll conducted two weeks ago by a polling institute headed by Khalil Shikaki (in conjunction with the Adenauer Foundation) in Ramallah found that while a vast majority of the Palestinians - 91 percent - favor fundamental reform of the PA, 52 percent of the public continue to support terrorist attacks "against Israeli citizens within Israel." For some reason, the pollsters seemed somewhat intoxicated by the fact that the response rate to this last question in December 2001 was 58 percent. Moreover, even now, despite all the privations suffered by the Palestinians in the wake of Israel's response to the terrorism, 67 percent of the Palestinian public believes that it is the military clashes that have helped the Palestinians to realize national rights they would not have realized through negotiations.

Given this encouraging news, we should consider the proposed reforms of the Palestinian Authority with some skepticism. Implementation of reforms in Palestinian society is indirectly important for Israel, as well. Not only because they could spawn a responsible Palestinian leadership, but also because a corrupt leadership will leave the masses in a state of abject poverty; the resultant rage will invariably be vented on Israel and moderate Arab states.

All this talk of reform can only be of value if the violence against Israel, which has in the past been directed also against Lebanon and Jordan, ends. Otherwise, we have no interest in these reforms.


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