Only a Palestinian civil war will bring peace

Posted: Jun 10, 2003 12:00 AM

Like the proverbial broken record, some of us have been saying for years that only one thing can bring peace to the Middle East: a Palestinian civil war.

It should now be as obvious as anything can be that this is the case. A significant percentage of Palestinians do not want peace with Israel; they want peace without an Israel. If these individuals and groups are not fought by those Palestinians who want peace with Israel, peace is impossible.

The need for Palestinians to fight one another in order to make a state is hardly unique. Many states, including the United States and, to a lesser extent, Israel, have had to fight civil wars in order to survive.

If the American government had not been prepared to fight a civil war, there would be no United States as we know it, and slavery in America would not have been abolished. Likewise, the first prime minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, killed fellow Jews who resisted his call to put down their arms and accept the Israeli government.

The questions for the Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen are therefore as stark and as difficult:

Does he have the courage and leadership qualities to be the Palestinians' Lincoln or Ben-Gurion?

Does he have enough support among Palestinians, who in every poll over the last years have supported terror and the destruction of Israel, to engage in political and military battle with fellow Palestinians?

Can he neutralize Yasser Arafat, who encourages the Palestinian terror groups?

And if the Palestinian prime minister does take on Hamas and other terrorist groups, can he avoid being assassinated by fellow Palestinians who want Israel destroyed? Could he survive an almost inevitable assassination plot organized by the Iranian regime, the major supporter of those who seek Israel's destruction?

We do not know the answers to these questions. But we will know them soon. Because without a positive answer to each, peace is not possible.

We are at one of those rare and important moments in history when anyone who wants to can see the roots of a world conflict with perfect clarity. The only reason there has not been peace between Israel and its Palestinian and other Arab neighbors since 1948 is the refusal of most Arabs and large numbers of Muslims elsewhere to accept the existence of a Jewish state in Israel.

Israel showed at Camp David in 2000 that it will do everything except commit suicide for real peace with the Palestinians. Yet precisely when Israel offered a Palestinian state on 95 percent of the West Bank, Palestinians resumed blowing up Israelis wherever Israelis live, eat, travel, pray and work. It was clear to all but those who hate Israel that Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians wanted Israel destroyed more than they wanted a state. And now, once again, Israel is making clear its willingness to do just about anything for peace -- this time under a right-wing prime minister.

It is time for the world to see the 55-year-old truth that Israel wants peace while its enemies want Israel destroyed . . . unless the Palestinians are willing to fight their terrorists. Nothing will demonstrate that Palestinians are willing to live alongside Israel as much as their willingness to fight fellow Palestinians.

For those who claim "war never solves anything," a mantra of such ignorance that only the well educated believe it, the Palestinians can provide another example of how war, or at least a willingness to wage war, can solve a great deal. Just as the Nazi atrocities were ended only by war, so, too, the Palestinians will have a state and enjoy peace and freedom only by declaring, and if need be fighting, a war. A civil war.

For their sake and the world's sake, let us pray they wage it.