Sharon surely knows
what ever visitor to the bullet-scarred offices of the PA chairman
knows: Yasser Arafat is more convinced than ever before that in this
war, the Arabs will beat the Israelis; and maybe, they've already
won. The victory is on his desk every morning, in the newspapers. No
Israeli tank can take it away from him. Nor can throwing the women
of Ramallah out of their homes in the middle of night into the
street where the shooting's going on.
It's no accident that Sharon and Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz have
adopted the mantra of "determination." They believe that if only we
manage to convince Arafat that the mourning, bereavement, anxiety
and despair won't bring the end of occupation any closer, Arafat
will get down on his knees and beg Israel to allow him to surrender
unconditionally. They ought to take
a look at The Midterm Assessment, a brief essay by Dr. Gershon
Baskin, co-director of the Israel Palestinian Committee for Research
and Information. Baskin is well-connected to both the Palestinian
leadership and the Palestinian street, and his analyses and their
prognosis often prove to be remarkably accurate.
The Palestinians are well-aware, writes Baskin, that their military
strength is negligible compared to Israel's, and that they have no
chance of winning anything on the battlefield. "They believe,
however, that they are much stronger than Israel politically and
morally," Baskin writes. "They believe that justice is on their side
and that history sides with them as well. They say that Israel is
the last occupying power left in the world and that the success of
the Palestinian struggle for freedom from occupation is inevitable.
They also believe that Hezbollah-type tactics will work and that the
great losses that are inflicted upon them serve to strengthen their
resolve while constructing the most important chapter in the
Palestinian narrative. This chapter is one of heroism and struggle
that will end with the glorious victory of liberation and freedom.
In view of their negative experiences of the Oslo process, the
Palestinians believe that they could not have extracted from Israel
total withdrawal from the occupied territories through negotiations.
They believe that they will achieve this goal through their
Baskin's assessment is echoed by professionals in the U.S. State
Department, and among other Western diplomats with responsibility
for Palestinian affairs. "Sharon tried economic pressure, on
the assumption that would defeat Arafat and force him to concede,"
said one of those diplomats this week. "The assumption that an iron
fist and determination would bring political results was also proven
false," he added. "Too bad that the one thing nobody has tried is a