From Enderlin, the Middle East bureau chief for France 2, a journalistic account of the current era of troubles in Israel and Palestine.
In the author’s view, the seating of Ariel Sharon’s government in February 2001 signaled the end of the Camp David era of negotiation with the Palestinian government of Yasir Arafat, undoing years of effort on the part of the Clinton administration. Sharon declared that Arafat was an unfit partner for peace. Although most Israelis agreed that a joint venture with the Palestinians was essential, most also accepted that Arafat was an enemy arguing for the destruction of Israel; worse enemies notwithstanding, he became “Arafat the terrorist” once more. In response to the growing intifada, Israel put new procedures in place. “The military police no longer immediately investigated the circumstances of a civilian death,” Enderlin charges, freeing troops to “react more spontaneously” in the field. That spontaneity, the journalist calculates, led to a lopsided body count: During the next five years, some 3,185 Palestinian civilians died in confrontations with the Israeli Defense Force, “among whom were hundreds of bystanders.” This confrontation was inevitable, argued Israel and its allies in the American government—most notably, in Enderlin’s view, neoconservative theoretician Richard Perle, then chair of Bush’s Defense Policy Board. It was inevitable, the author agrees, to the extent that all other possibilities but confrontation were systematically eliminated, freezing out Arafat (who bitterly complained, “Am I bin Laden?”) and fueling a vicious circle of rising radicalism and intransigence. Rejecting warnings by Bush administration moderates such as Colin Powell, the Sharon government finally decided it must either expel Arafat from Palestine or kill him. When he died of cancer in 2004, however, the cycle of violence continued, climaxing with the disastrous Lebanon invasion of 2006. Enderlin urges Israel to negotiate with the new government of Mahmoud Abbas based on the principle of “territory for peace”—without which, he reasonably concludes, peace will be impossible.
An evenhanded view of a most partisan conflict.