How to Hunt White Elephants

The comparison between the PA and Lebanon is intended, in effect, to lead to a new definition of Arafat and the PA as real enemies of Israel, to turn the PA into a concept equal to the Hezbollah.

At the hunt club, the hunters were wondering about the best way to hunt white elephants. All the methods they had read about in the professional literature, all the good advice they had heard and all the deep thought they had devoted to the question were of no help. Then one morning a mahout with vast experience of driving elephants came around and was surprised at their perplexity.

"You do know how to hunt red elephants, don't you?"

The club members nodded but did not understand what this had to do with it.

"It's very simple," said the mahout. "What you have to do is to annoy the white elephants so much that their skin turns red. And now you do know how to hunt red elephants."

This is more or less the Israeli problem with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. At any given moment, the analogy pops up between what is happening in the territories and what happened in Lebanon. When roadside bombs went off in the Gaza Strip at the beginning of the intifada, there was talk of the Lebanonization of the territories; when terrorists ambushed Israeli cars or first laid a mine and then opened fire, the comparison to the Hezbollah's methods of action in Lebanon immediately came up.

Now, with the seizure of the weapons ship, the answer to the question of "What would have happened had the weapons been brought into the territories?" is found, of course, in Lebanon. This routine comparison brings up two conundrums. If Lebanon is the preferred state of reference in Israel, why do only half the job? Why not come to terms with it and say that if the Palestinians are turning the territories into Lebanon, we will have no alternative but to leave the territories the way we left Lebanon. Because for a "Lebanese" problem there is already a Lebanese solution.

The second conundrum is a bit more complex. The comparison between the PA and Lebanon is intended, in effect, to lead to a new definition of Arafat and the PA as real enemies of Israel, to turn the PA into a concept equal to the Hezbollah. But let us suppose that it was possible to skip one stage and to determine straightaway that Arafat and Lebanon are the same. He is the enemy, he is the one who wants to attack Israeli citizens and he is the one who must be fought.

Practically speaking, there is no need to adopt a new philosophy to this end. In any case, this is the perception of Israel's enemy. Hence, there is no need to tear out our hair every time Arafat tries to purchase more arms or to evade agreements. For the sake of this argument, we can also assume that no agreement exists between Israel and the PA.

The result is that the status of the PA resembles not only that of the Hezbollah - the favorite comparison - but also that of Jordan and Egypt before the peace agreements with them were signed, and that of Syria and Lebanon to this day. In this situation a new question must be raised: How can Arafat's motivation to fight Israel be neutralized - and not how much weaponry he is still acquiring or what means he is using in his war.

Here it is possible to take the mahout's advice. Red elephants, like Jordan and Egypt - we have already hunted. These two states have not disarmed themselves and they are continuing to equip themselves with modern weaponry after they signed a peace agreement with Israel. Despite this, Israel does not see them as terrorist states or as enemies in the military sense of the term.

The secret is that Jordan and Egypt have received everything they wanted, all their lands, and there is no reason remaining for a dispute. With Lebanon, too, Israel put an end to the story after it withdrew from the last centimeter that was agreed upon and even split a village in its territory - Ghajar - in two.

The northern border is still nevertheless under threat, but in five months this border will celebrate the second anniversary of the withdrawal and the quiet that has been achieved in its aftermath.

The Syrian border is quiet even though Israel has not withdrawn from the territories there, because until a year and a half ago Lebanon served as a substitute for this front and because Syria's ability to go to war against Israel on its own would mean losing for sure and the certain loss of Syrian and Arab prestige.

The Palestinians have no such problem. They have nothing more to lose. But in contrast to the Hezbollah, with the Palestinians there is a good chance of signing an agreement and even achieving peace. The price is known. It has already been established with Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon.