This Would Be News

Posted: Mar 29, 2002 12:00 AM
In a surprise move, the Arab League voted yesterday to condemn the brutal suicide attack on Israeli men, women and children just sitting down to their Passover meal in a Netanya hotel ballroom. Nineteen people were killed, including several children, when a 25-year-old Hamas member from the West Bank walked into the dining room and detonated 40 pounds of explosives laced with nails. In addition to the dead, 130 others were seriously wounded. One survivor recalled asking a wounded woman if he could help her get up. "How can you help me?" she asked. "I have no legs." Another survivor recalled crawling over the body of a young girl, about 10 or 12, whose "sweet" face bore an expression of shock, "but she was definitely dead." "This kind of atrocity only impedes the search for peace," said Hussein Ibn-Assir, a Saudi spokesman. "We have our differences with Israel, but we condemn in the strongest terms this kind of brutal attack on innocent civilians which is incompatible with Islam or any standard of morality." The Saudi and Egyptian representatives at the meeting said privately that their governments were seriously considering cutting aid to the Palestinian Authority if this kind of terrorism was not abandoned. And Crown Prince Abdullah announced plans to travel to Jerusalem to express his nation's sincere desire for an end to violence and terror. It is not yet known what contributed to this sudden change of heart on the part of the Arab nations. Until just a few days ago, they had celebrated suicide bombers in their government-controlled newspapers and television programs as "martyrs" and "heroes," and had depicted Jews as blood-suckers and monkeys. (In a related development, Al-Jazeera, the Arab satellite television network, announced that it would interview Ariel Sharon.) Reports indicate that contrary to rumors that Vice President Cheney was received frostily during his Middle East swing, he had in fact been the one delivering a stern message. The vice president had apparently been polite but firm, conveying again President Bush's message that in the war against terror there could be no middle ground. "When the vice president of the United States asks whether you are with them or against them," a high-ranking Arab official said, "you naturally choose to be with them." Cheney apparently hammered the point that terror is terror, whether practiced against New Yorkers or Jerusalemites -- and the United States was not going to have one standard for Al-Qaeda and another for the Palestinian Authority. Even more remarkable than the public statements coming out of the Arab summit were the private acknowledgments from leading statesmen on the nature of the conflict. Muhammad Al-Nasser, an Egyptian diplomat, said the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees was a "bridge too far." "Millions of people are displaced by every war," he conceded. "Did the Germans who had to leave their homes after World War II have a right of return? Did the Indians and Pakistanis who fled in both directions across the border during the war of 1948? Besides, if we're talking about creating a two-state solution to this mess, how can we also say that a million Palestinians can make claims to land in Israel?" End of fantasy. All of the foregoing is, of course, fiction. The Arab summit endorsed the "Saudi peace plan" -- another attempt to push Israel into the sea, albeit slowly. As Faisal al-Husseini, a so-called Palestinian moderate, put it, the Oslo process itself was a "Trojan Horse" designed to achieve the goal of a "Palestine from the (Jordan) river to the (Mediterranean) sea." (This quote is not fictitious.) And the Bush administration has rewarded Arafat for his disgusting terrorism by offering -- for the what, hundredth time? -- to have Cheney meet with him if he simply refrains from blowing up innocents for a week and promises to be good. By this standard, Osama bin Laden deserves a State Dinner -- he hasn't blown up any Americans for six months. Not only should Israel not be discouraged from defending herself, she should be given a green light. The only answer is to take back whatever land Israel needs for strategic depth, and then build a trench -- a DMZ -- around the West Bank and Gaza. Stretch barbed wire the whole length of the border and mine it. This is not what good people on either side had hoped for. But it is the only possible answer.