A glimmer of hope for peace in Mideast

by Stanley Crouch

Thursday, May 29th, 2003

When endless war has been the trouble, as it has between the Palestinians and the Israelis, everything depends on how the dead speak to each side, whether those now gone demand recognition through further killing or whether they represent the great need for peace and for civilized argument.

That is why we should be proud of the men in charge of the opposing populations, because, like the truest of leaders, they are risking not only their political futures, but their very lives by moving above those with their faces stuck to the ground by the blood of the slaughtered. What they are admitting is very simple but no less than profound, given the context of their problem. The violence over the past two years has gotten the Palestinians nothing, and Israel cannot forever hold down 3.5 million people without suffering in every way, from loss of life to economic disaster.

If the Palestinian and the Israeli leaderships maintain the course, avoiding assassination and rallying their populations to sip the bitter broth of serious negotiation, something that many might consider a miracle could take place. A Palestinian state could emerge, Israel's right to exist could be agreed upon and the most murderous people on both sides could be held back, imprisoned or, if absolutely necessary, snuffed out. From this station, parading the killed on either side is less important than championing the chances for a new way of living. No one owes the past anything, but we all owe the present everything. It seems both sides now know this.

If President Bush and his crew are able to keep this process going, they will have made a monumental contribution to our moment, one that may save them from the tar pit into which the Halliburton deal, which reeks of something akin to insider trading, could push them by election time next year. But the U.S. also has to make it clear that an attack on Israel will be interpreted as an attack on us, which eventually should silence those ever ready to scream about Israel's security.

The wonder of our moment, however, is Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, whom the Palestinian terror units wanted elected because they were following legendary Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal's theory, which was that if you commit enough murders against the populace of the enemy, the enemy government will respond with such force that your side will be radicalized against it. Hamas and Islamic Jihad stepped up the bombing slaughters two years ago to sucker-punch the Israelis into electing a strong man who would come down on the Palestinians with both feet.

We should expect that they will use the same tactic again. If Sharon can hold fast and the Israelis can understand what kind of a murderous trick is being played on them, they might avoid being played. If the Palestinian leadership is strong enough to make sure that the terrorists are revealed as the intentional enemies of peace that they are, the Palestinian people, with a viable homeland at stake, will reject and move against them.

If so, a durable trump card will be removed from the hands of those such as Al Qaeda. The bloody excuse of no Palestinian homeland will no longer apply. And then, among two peoples, at least, it might all be over except for the difficult negotiations and the singing. At such a point, we will have been alive long enough to see what a miracle means in truly human terms.