It should come as no surprise to anyone that the cease fire agreed to at Sharm el-Sheik was violated less than two weeks after its inception. It should also come as no surprise that the Israelis were not the ones to fire first.
There is no historical precedent to suggest that the hostility that has plagued the region for as long as there has been a state of Israel could be ended by the shaking of hands at an Egyptian beach resort. The culture of hatred toward Israel and Jews that is propagated in Palestinian territory and throughout much of the Arab world does not suggest that an end is near.
In fact, it is unlikely that anyone alive today will see an end to security personnel standing guard at the entrances to Israeli restaurants and entertainment venues in their lifetimes. Israel is, however, here to stay, and the current state of affairs is just unacceptable in this century. It is urgent that Middle Eastern and Western leaders take a more positive attitude than this writer has and work every day towards a peaceful, symbiotic relationship between Israelis and their Palestinian neighbors.
The first step is ensuring that this weekend’s attack on a night club in Tel Aviv does not mark a new beginning to the cycle of violence. Abu Mazen has hardly been in power long enough to be able to promise a cease fire and actually enforce it among radical groups. It would have been unreasonable for Israel to expect that the cease fire was actually going to include a cessation of terror attacks by Palestinian radicals. Mazen’s job at this point is to show the world that he is in fact serious about peace and clamp down on those responsible for violating the truce.
Unfortunately he believes that persuasion, not force, is the way for Palestinian leadership to end the violence being perpetrated by supposed fringe elements. It is irrelevant what method he decides to use as long as it produces results.
Israel’s role in all of this is to give Mazen’s administration room to work. A military response must be delayed until it is clear that the cease fire is not working. A military response is likely to only rekindle the cycle of violence and increase Israel’s guilt in the court of world opinion. Sharon has to keep the IDF at bay and give peace a chance. This method is unfortunately very slippery. If Israel backs off too much it will give terrorists the idea that it’s open season on Israel without consequences. The responsibility to prevent this from happening rests squarely on the shoulders of Palestinian leadership to dole out punishment on those who violate the cease fire.
As of the writing of this article, it is unclear exactly who is behind the attack, but it has been suggested that Syria may have been indirectly involved. Mazen must make a plea to Damascus to stay out of the conflict. Syria’s involvement does nothing to help the plight of the Palestinian people and inciting a continuation of violence only makes matter worse. It is imperative that Mazen work to curb the flow of Syrian funding to terrorists before Israel is forced to respond militarily.
Israeli leaders can only sit idly by for a limited amount of time before a response of some sort is necessary. A military response by Israel will bring an end to the cease fire. The Palestinians have already violated the terms while the Israelis have held their end of the bargain. The impetus now rests with Palestinian leadership to determine what will happen next.
Adam Smith ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in political science and economics.