George Will
"If you start to take Vienna--take Vienna." --Napoleon WASHINGTON--Yes, military tentativeness is ruinous. But what, for Ariel Sharon, is Vienna? Today's war began 18 months ago when Yasser Arafat--a Goebbels echoed by gullible news media--said the violence he orchestrated was a spontaneous conflagration of popular indignation about Sharon visiting a holy site in Israel's capital, Jerusalem's Temple Mount. Now the war may have become the first half of the only currently feasible formula for Israel's self-defense--a short war, followed by a high wall. Israel made the worst diplomatic miscalculation since Munich when it resurrected Arafat's political life by bringing him back to Palestine from Tunisia a decade ago. The culture of death which he has assiduously cultivated has produced a Palestinian population intoxicated with a pogrom mentality, and convinced that the results of 1948, not just 1967, can be reversed. Israel's policy of isolating Arafat in a room, clustered with a few henchmen around guttering candles, is reasonable because it underscores his dependence on "world opinion," and especially Europe's appeasement reflex, which is still strong 64 years after Munich. But it is unreasonable for Israel to allow electricity into his compound. Enabled to recharge his mobile phone, he continues to use the international media as his megaphone. And when a gaggle of leftist European supporters of terrorists--described on CNN, which sometimes sounds like the voice of the Palestinian Authority, as "international peace demonstrators"--walks past Israeli tanks and into the compound, can Jesse Jackson be far behind? Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's once and perhaps future prime minister, can say of Sharon, as Teddy Roosevelt said of his successor, William Howard Taft, that he "means well, but he means well feebly." The United States, too, has a record of resisting the logic of its judgments. "I think the PLO has proven that it is a terrorist organization," said President-elect Ronald Reagan. But after his inauguration he allowed the PLO to maintain its office a few blocks from the White House. Less than two years ago, candidate Bush said: "A few years ago on a trip to Israel, General Sharon took me on a helicopter flight over the West Bank. And what a trip that was. What struck me ... is the tiny distance between enemy lines and Israel's population centers. The general said that before the Six Day War, Israel was only nine miles wide at its narrowest point. In Texas some of our driveways are longer than that." Note the words "enemy lines." Bush knows that no Israeli leader can accept restoration of those 1967 borders, which were accidents of war. Consider some history. It has been 84 years since Britain's General Allenby defeated the Turks at--really--Armageddon, dooming the Ottoman Empire and opening Palestine to Jewish immigration. It has been 46 years since the Suez fiasco ended European attempts to fill the vacuum created by the Ottoman collapse. The vacuum has not been filled by the barely legitimate regimes of the Arab nations, many of which are well-described as "tribes with flags." There is no basis in international law or historic practice for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's assertion that Israel's occupation of the West Bank is "illegal." Israel's 1967 borders are armistice lines from 1948, when Arabs nations, rather than accept Palestinian statehood provided by U.N. resolutions and accepted by Israel, attempted to destroy Israel. The occupied territory on the West Bank is an unallocated portion of the Palestine Mandate, to be allocated by negotiations. Jordan was the military occupier of the West Bank from 1948 to 1967. In 1951 Jordan tried to annex the West Bank, but no Arab nation recognized the annexation. Israel took the West Bank when repelling aggression from there in 1967. Under settled international practice, Israel is entitled to hold the land until made secure by negotiated arrangements. But Arab nations have nurtured conditions inimical to regional stability, partly by the novel invention of four-generation "refugee" families. In 1945 there were many millions more refugees in Europe than there were in the Middle East in 1948. By 1950 Europe's problem had ceased festering. But 54 years after the founding of Israel, Palestinian "refugee camps"--cities, actually--exist because Arab nations have been unwilling to absorb Palestinians and want cities that are hothouses for developing irredentist fanaticism. Sharon reportedly wants to exile Arafat, the chief fomentor of such fanaticism. If so, why the tentativeness? Sharon should ship Arafat to Europe, where there is much official sympathy for him. Arafat would like today's France, where he could place his phone calls by the light of burning synagogues.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read George Will's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.