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Monday, April 08, 2002
Required reading
Did I ever mention that I love Mark Steyn? Not only does he see the Middle Eastern situation more clearly than more prestigious columnists like Tom Friedman, but he manages to avoid Friedman's pompous ignore-what-your-eyes-tell-you-because-I'm-an-expert approach to commenting on the situation. In describing the results of Dick Cheney's failed field trip through the Mideast:
Aside from the grim body-count, the whole period was a deranged exercise in unrealpolitik, with all parties negotiating fictions. The vice-president wanted Saudi Arabia to pretend to be his friend, the Arab League to pretend that the peace plan is for real, Ariel Sharon to pretend that Yasser Arafat is cracking down on terrorism, and Arafat to pretend that he wants to crack down on terrorism. Why? What’s the point? Where’s it get you? The only consolation is that Saddam’s rapprochements with his neighbours are also illusory. The Arab armies make Belgium look butch: when the Marines go into Iraq, they won’t be running into any Egyptian or Syrian units. Nor is it worth fretting over Saddam’s call to use the oil supply as a weapon: right now, those guys need to sell the stuff more than the West needs to buy it. On the other hand, if the old monster’s wheeze was to postpone the US invasion by whipping up the West Bank into full-scale war, everything’s going to plan.
And on the futility of negotiations:
That’s not how the rest of the world sees it, of course, no matter how many suicide-bomber belts and printing plates in assorted currencies are stacked in the counterfeit king’s corridors of power. The UN has long treated Arafat as the leader of a sovereign nation, as if to underline his inevitability: he’s already a head of state; all he needs is for those ‘intransigent’ Israelis to give him a state to be head of. The Australians and Canadians still deplore the violence ‘on both sides’, but the EU has pretty much given up on Israel: the famously ‘shitty little country’ is more trouble than it’s worth. Even in America, the airwaves are clogged with experts urging a withdrawal by Israel, as that will encourage Arafat to get ‘Oslo’ back on track, not to mention ‘Tenet’ and ‘Mitchell’, as if this Beltway-speak means anything when you’re all wired up and ready to blow.
It’s very difficult to negotiate a ‘two-state solution’ when one side sees the two-state solution as an intermediate stage to a one-state solution: ending the ‘Israeli occupation’ of the West Bank is a tactical prelude to ending the Israeli occupation of Israel. The divide among the Palestinians isn’t between those who want to make peace with Israel and those who want to destroy her, but between those who want to destroy Israel one suicide bomb at a time and those who want to destroy her through artful ‘peace processes’. Ayat Mohammed al-Akhras, the straight-A high-school student who blew herself up in a supermarket last week, devoted her farewell video to castigating the Arab League big shots for pussying around with peace plans and leaving the real work to Palestinian schoolgirl bombers. Her view would appear, from the polls, to be the opinion of the overwhelming majority. It’s useless to pretend there’s anything to negotiate.
Tom Friedman should be sentenced to read Mark Steyn 100 times, and summarize Steyn's observations in his own words. Only then should he be allowed to comment on the situation.

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