Editor’s Notes: Hope springs eternal

By David Horovitz February 9, 2005

Is the terror war over?

So that’s it?

After more than four years of terrible and futile killing, is the terror war over?

Are Israelis, bereaved and traumatized by a malevolent Palestinian leadership that strategically incited terrorism and persuaded much of a gullible world of its legitimacy, now to believe that the Yasser Arafat nightmare has truly ended?

Is Israel to take at face value Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s pledge to cease all acts of violence, to usher in a new era of peace and hope?

The precedents are discouraging.

Way back on September 13, 1993, Abbas’s PA leadership predecessor assured a watching world of his commitment ‘to give peace a chance’ and to work ‘to establish the foundations of a just and comprehensive peace.’ At Aqaba in June 2003, Abbas himself was much more direct than he has been now at Sharm, renouncing what he honestly acknowledged as ‘terrorism against the Israelis wherever they might be’ and vowing to ‘exert all of our efforts, using all our resources, to end the militarization of the intifada.’ He said, then, categorically, that ‘we will succeed’ in quashing the terrorism.

He was wrong.

Israel, its leaders and its people are much changed from 1993, changed even from 2003. Long gone is the tentative optimism invested in Arafat, as emblematized by Yitzhak Rabin’s hesitant handshake that day on the White House lawn. Gone too are the last vestiges of readiness, perhaps still discernible at Aqaba, to place much weight in rhetorical pledges by other Palestinian leaders.

Yet for the umpteenth year in succession, and despite the fact that the recent PA election campaign showed an Abbas with Arafat-esque final-status positions, the prime minister was ready in his speech to hope that this year, unlike all those other years than have ended in bloody disappointment, would be the year in which the opportunities for a better future were finally seized. Where Rabin, in 1993, hoped the new year would bring ‘a message of redemption for all peoples,’ Ariel Sharon, in 2005, looked ahead to ‘a year of great opportunity for all the peoples of the region, first and foremost for Israelis and Palestinians.’

What Sharon also highlighted, just as Rabin had done in 1993, was that the single most crucial factor in seizing that opportunity remains an end to terrorism.

Rabin put it vaguely and graciously in 1993: ‘We who have seen our relatives and friends killed before our eyes, we who have attended their funerals and cannot look into the eyes of their parents…we who have fought against you, the Palestinians, we say to you in a loud and clear voice: Enough of blood and tears.’

Sharon, though still gracious, was much more specific: ‘We must…act together, determinedly, to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, to disarm and subdue it once and for all. Only by crushing terror and violence will we build peace.’

So wary of the Palestinian enemies/partners has the prime minister become, yet so convinced that time is against Israel, that for more than a year now he has championed a controversial program of unilateral withdrawal.

Is that now to be superseded by a coordinated, concerted, genuine push for change? Is the absence of Arafat, the departure of the man who daily urged a million martyrs to march on Jerusalem, going to make all the difference? Will we now see a chairman Abbas, unlike candidate Abbas, who confronts terrorism and adopts viable final-status positions?

The days of fulsome optimism are over. But hope, sometimes despite better judgement, evidently does spring eternal.

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