The Color of Abu Ala's Eyes

Israel, with such long experience in the occupation of others, apparently still hasn't managed to understand what those American rookies understood after six months of occupation.

Here's another term that can be misleading: "The Palestinian government." Who is that Palestinian government? How many Israelis can name the Palestinian health minister or the justice minister? Who is the minister for welfare? Is there a labor minister and what is he doing to get the more than 60 percent of the labor force in the territories that is unemployed back to work? Yes, the territories, not the "Palestinian state." From the Israeli perspective there's not much meaning to the ability of the Palestinian government to run the affairs of the population. In Israeli eyes, the Palestinian government is comprised of only one minister and one prime minister: the interior minister and Abu Ala. If Nasser Yussef is named interior minister, "we won." If not, "we lost." In other words, we won't talk with the "Palestinian government." In other words, "they," meaning the Palestinians, "lost" us.

That argument, to talk or not, to meet or not, is what remains of the axiom that has accompanied the intifada from the time it broke out: Yasser Arafat has to go or at least become a statue. As long as he is in the Muqata, Israel is free to do what it wants, as if it is a basic condition of a contract the Palestinians violated. The government of Israel drew a direct line between Arafat and terror attacks and it managed to sell the public the principle that if Arafat is driven away, terror will be defeated. Therefore, all those who touch Arafat are infected by terror; all those he appoints are terrorists. The logical conclusion is that the terror infrastructure is not in Hamas or Islamic Jihad, it does not derive its power from a supportive environment - like the employment situation or the poverty - and it has nothing to do with the occupation. The terrorist infrastructure is one person. And amazingly, Israel not only doesn't drop a one-ton bomb on the Muqata, it doesn't even consider expelling Arafat. It demands the "Palestinian government" fight the terror infrastructure. According to the Israeli logic, Abu Ala not only has to act against Hamas, he has to assassinate Arafat, the most senior of all.

Israel, with such long experience in the occupation of others, apparently still hasn't managed to understand what those American rookies understood after six months of occupation. President Bush, the midwife father of the road map, is now pushing his representative in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, to pass the government over to an authentic Iraqi government, not only appointed by American prescription. Bush understood quickly that quite a few of the terror attacks in Iraq are based on the sense of resistance to occupation, the anger at the behavior of the occupying soldiers and a desire to avenge the deaths of innocent civilians. Those feelings help the terror organizations operating in Iraq to build legitimacy. Bush's ambition for a Western style democracy in Iraq will quickly replace the strategy of "instant democracy," as long as some representative leadership produces it.

Israel does not have the same problem. On the contrary. It almost has luxury conditions. It has already replaced three authentic governments in the Palestinian Authority. It even got an authentic prime minister according to the prescription that Israel set down, Abu Mazen. The rejectionist organizations once again are ready to talk about a cease-fire, the new prime minister Abu Ala is already being accused by the Palestinians of aiming his inaugural speech at the Israeli peace camp and not to the Palestinians. Nearly 60 percent of those asked in a Palestinian public opinion poll support an end to the terror attacks, but in Israel, they still examine the dietary composition of Abu Ala and his interior ministry: How many Arafat units are there on the political menu? Maybe the color of his eyes should be a criterion. It's interesting that those kinds of laboratory exams aren't necessary when it involves negotiating with Hassan Nasrallah. After all, with Hezbollah those are only humanitarian negotiations. But with the Palestinians, we might end up making peace if we're not careful.