After three days of crowing about the American veto of the UN Security Council's resolution proposal, an almost identical resolution was adopted by the UN General Assembly.
The Israeli reaction was swift - a contemptuous statement attributing the vote results, 133 to 4, to the Arab bloc's automatic majority in the UN.
One can, of course, also congratulate oneself for the allies Israel found in the GA vote - the U.S. alongside Micronesia and the Marshall Islands. One can also ignore the regrettable fact that all the European Union states were among the huge majority supporting the resolution, intended to prohibit Israel from harming Arafat. And one can also suppress the bottom line - that the UN gave Israel a diplomatic slap in the face for its government's stupid decision, which was mainly a declaration of intentions without an actual possibility of carrying them out.
A week after the cabinet's hallucinatory meeting, in which it decided to "remove the obstacle" (Arafat), even its ministers admit it was not meant for imminent implementation and that Israel is totally dependent on U.S approval in this matter.
The desire to remove Arafat in one way or another is the most blatant demonstration of the Israeli tendency to evade responsibility and condition everything on imaginary developments on the Palestinian side. Instead of doing what it must do to try to calm the conflict down, Israel is producing action plans for the rival side and demanding that it carry them out. When the Palestinians fail to live up to these expectations, Israel derives renewed confirmation for its belief that there is no partner to peace.
The Oslo agreement was based, among other things, on the demand that the Palestinians change their character and become a democratic society - a wonder that does not exist in the entire Arab world. This condition was fulfilled on the face of it and on its basis Arafat was unanimously elected chairman of the Palestinian Authority. This formal procedure, the likes of which took place in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, is now being used, ironically, by Ahmed Tibi and others to claim that Israel's threat to Arafat is foiling a perfectly democratic move. Just how far democratic rule prevails in Palestinian society was indicated by the campaign mounted against Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) when he dared challenge Arafat.
The move that led to Abu Mazen's election for prime minister also exemplifies the Israeli illusion that it could foist change on the Palestinians. So is the demand that the Palestinians produce a leader in the image of David Ben-Gurion, who would be resolute enough to enforce his authority on all the armed organizations. The cabinet's decision to get rid of Arafat falls into this rubbish bin of hallucinations. Neither Israel nor any external body can replace, by force, the internal processes necessary to change Palestinian society's world of references, its game rules and its politics.
Israel must learn to deal with the Palestinian rival as it is. First and foremost it must do its own part to settle the conflict, or rather, do everything it can to cool it down. A Palestinian proposal for a cease-fire is on the agenda. The cabinet has so far refrained from addressing it, except for the familiar argument that as long as Arafat is around, and as long as the PA isn't dismantling the terror organizations, there is no chance of reaching an agreement.
These are unrealistic pre-conditions, even if to Israel they appear justified. They will not be fulfilled without a profound change in the overall climate in which the conflict is taking place. And to make this change happen, Israel must finally reach the awareness that it must give up the territories.
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