The particulars of how Sharon intends to reach ?genuine peace? were not spelled out by any Israeli government leader in Herzliya, though two Israeli officials did just that for a roundtable of some 30 foreign journalists on the eve of the conference.
As laid out, the blueprint is pretty straightforward: achieve recognition from the Palestinians, then Arab states will race to normalize relations with the Jewish state. The rough timetable, then, is to move fairly quickly after the upcoming Palestinian elections to reach some sort of accord, then attempt to strike deals with at least a handful of Arab and Gulf states in the next few years.
But to paraphrase many conference participants not enamored with the Sharon strategy: This is not an Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but an Israeli-Arab one.
For years, Arab despots have used Palestinians as pawns to divert the attention of not just the United States, the European Union, but also their own people. Even more fundamentally, however, is the simple fact that the radical Islamists, who enjoy ever-growing power in the Arab world, want to eliminate the Jewish state.
Reality notwithstanding, a revival of the pre-Oslo mindset?minus the delusional optimism?appears to be underway.
The Sharon government is resurrecting the most ominous pre-Oslo ghost: picking a Palestinian ?leader? for the sole purpose of having someone with whom the Jewish state can ?negotiate.?
In a coronation ceremony masquerading as an election on January 9, the Palestinians will go to the polls with one real choice on the ballot: longtime Arafat crony Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen.
To paraphrase a popular leftist catchphrase about America?s 2000 presidential race, Mr. Abbas is being selected, not elected. His true base of support?Israel, the U.S., the E.U.?is essentially the same bunch that pulled him and Arafat out of Tunis and foisted them upon the Palestinian people a decade ago.
Just as Arafat delivered an accord as expected at Oslo, all indications are that Abbas will soon sign on the dotted line. Sharon?s speech hinted at this when saying that he wanted to hand off security enforcement in the territories to a Palestinian government ?which is ready and able to take responsibility.?
To which one conference attendee remarked: ?Most likely Abu Mazen will be ?able? to stop terrorism, but will Arafat?s former partner be ?ready? to??
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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