[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com]
Lightning paced thriller writer
of International Intrigue
National Bestselling Author

Coping With The Intifada
by Allan Topol, [IMAGE]2004


Photo Courtesy: Julie Zitin
[Allan Topol / AllanTopol.Com] More than three years ago, Yassir Arafat broke off negotiations with Israel and launched the Palestinian’s Intifada, which is a fancy word for a reign of terror. In doing so, Arafat walked away from the generous offer then Israeli Prime Minister Barak put on the table at Camp David. While that offer didn’t give Arafat everything he wanted, the Israeli concessions, on all subject, including Jerusalem and refugees, were stunning in their magnitude.

I have just returned from a visit to the Middle East. I wanted to see firsthand what the situation was on the ground. How the two sides were coping after several years of bloodshed.

I was surprised at how well the Israelis are doing even after the recent bombings in the Sinai. Unquestionably, in Israel, there is an underlying tension. Nearly everyone has family members in the army and at risk. People want peace and are weary of the fighting. Yet, I understood that only by talking with people.

Walking on the streets of Tel Aviv, as we did, for example, from a meeting at Kiraya (the Israeli counterpart of our Pentagon) back to our hotel, on the surface everything seemed normal. Cafés and restaurants were filling up while evening descended on the city. Traffic was heavy as workers poured out of huge modern glass skyscraper office buildings. Shops and boutiques were open and well stocked. Tourism is up substantially from last year. This is a city vibrant and thriving.

Even in the south, in Eilat, so close to the Egyptian resorts in the Sinai that were bombed, the Israeli town was very much alive. In the winter, Eilat receives a heavy influx of European tourists in search of the sun. There was no indication those tourists would cancel their trips.

The Israeli economy is not booming, but neither are the economies in Western Europe. It’s difficult to discern what the impact of the Intifada has been compared with world economic factors generally.

Without a doubt, the security barrier, which is a fence for most of its route, being constructed by Israel has radically reduced terrorist infiltration and suicide bombings. In areas where the fence has been completed, it has already proven its effectiveness with a major decrease in terror attacks carried out successfully. The fence has prevented the smuggling of weapons as well as uncontrolled passage of pedestrians and cargo into Israel. These are the key components of the suicide bombers.

The barrier has also had an enormous psychological benefit for the country. There is a feeling that government can and has done something to stop the murder of innocent civilians.

Recently, construction has been slowed as the Israeli high court has required revisions in the barrier’s route in an effort to accommodate humanitarian considerations. These have played a role in the project from the beginning as Israel has tried to minimize hardship for Palestinians as well as adverse impact on the environment and archeological ruins while enhancing security. On the current schedule, the barrier could be concluded in 2005.

Likewise, Prime Minister Sharon’s planned unilateral withdrawal from Gaza is a cause for further optimism in Israel. I left Israel feeling the Gaza withdrawal will take place. The settlers and hardliners in Sharon’s Likud party are a distinct minority who will not be able to block it.

Again, there is a feeling that Sharon’s government is doing something positive. While there have been numerous private discussions between Israelis and Palestinians, Arafat has stifled any high level discussions that are official and may be considered negotiations. It is the absence of a negotiating partner which has led Israel to attempt a unilateral disengagement, first in Gaza and later on the West Bank.

In contrast to the Israeli situation, there is only gloom and despair on the Palestinian side. The Intifada has meant misery for Arafat’s people without any offsetting benefit.

Moreover, Arafat has effectively blocked the emergence of new leadership and democratic reform. If those European governments who cry out whenever Israel assassinates a terrorist leader or organizer of suicide bombing missions want to do something constructive, they have a perfect opportunity. Lean on Arafat to reform his ruling structure and make it democratic. Help create the emergence of new leaders who can persuade their people to endorse the independent state Israel is prepared to accept. Stop teaching hatred to school children.

It’s time for the Palestinians to abandon the senseless violence. Then both societies can move forward to negotiate a peace agreement.