Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Arafat's Legacy

I remember a time during my Junior year considering J-term in Israel with Dr. Fairchild. He assured us that recent clashes between Palestinians and Israelis would only be a temporary thing, and that by Christmas it ought to be safe for us. January looked bright.

That was four years ago.

I haven't said a word about Yasir Arafat's recent passing. Mostly that's because I haven't had much nice to say. While I respected the vision Arafat had for his people, I've never had much respect for the man himself. He was, at times past, a terrorist. And even after he became a statesman, he failed to take a hard line against the terror during the current intifada. This isn't said to place the blame entirely on the Palestinians. Israel has fanned the flames of terror just fine by creating the perfect situation for it. But recently, they've come to understand their cause in the matter. Arafat had not.

Little by little Israelis have come to terms with the fact that land must be conceded in order to find peace with Palestine. Arafat would have none of that. If we are to see peace in the Gaza and the West Bank, it will be from a deal that neither side will be happy with -- a deal which has no clear "winner" -- a deal that extremists on both sides will denounce -- a deal that the U.S. and Europe will have a major hand in crafting.

(Thomas Friedman's recent piece in the NY Times says all this better than I ever could. If you have a few extra minutes, I would encourage you to read it.)

Yasir Arafat failed to find peace because he failed to make unpopular sacrifices that might have led to a deal. Let's hope his successor understands that bit of history, and isn't afraid to sacrifice parts of "the cause" to find peace for those who've fought for so long.

No comments: