THE NEW QUARANTINE OF ISRAEL

By Avi Davis

Picture this if you can: Egypt, seething with rage at Israel´s treatment of the Palestinians, threatens Israel with punitive military action. In concert with this threat, Syria mobilizes and masses its troops on the edge of the Golan Heights. Jordan, unable to resist the pressure of its saber rattling neighbors, allows Iraqi tanks to roll across its frontiers and take up positions on the Israeli border. Throughout the Arab world, giant posters announce jihad against the Jewish state and newspapers call for death to the Jews.

Meanwhile, Israel´s diplomatic efforts are foundering. The American president warns Israel that it must not make a pre-emptive strike and insists on a peacekeeping mission. France ambitiously attempts to convene a Four Power Conference to find a diplomatic solution, only to fail. Britain and the U.S promise a joint show of force to discourage Arab militarism, but it never materializes. Finally, Israel´s foreign minister makes a frantic world tour to shore up international support for the country´s position, yet finds, to his grief, that Israel stands alone.

Sounds uncomfortably familiar? It should. These were the exact events preceding the outbreak of war in June1967. Fighting on three fronts, Israel waged and won the Six Day War in a climate of frigid international indifference. The real threats to the country´s existence seemed to have caused barely a stir in the consciences of world leaders, many of whom were convinced that Israel´s liquidation was only a matter of time. Proof of this was obtained only a few years later when among Charles De Gaulle´s papers was found a speech, written in the first week of June 1967, mourning the destruction of the State of Israel.

As the G8 representatives met in Genoa this week, the ghost of that terrifying period hovered over Israel. The Israeli government, having urged the international community for many months to isolate Yasser Arafat, decry his terrorism and reward its own blood-sprayed policy of restraint with support, was given an astonishing rebuff. The declaration of the G8, calling for the installation of international observers to monitor the implementation of the Tenet cease-fire proposal and the recommendations of the Mitchell Report, proved that the interval of thirty­five years had changed nothing.

Instead of acknowledging the mayhem and murder Arafat has brought to the Middle East, the G8 in fact sought to apportion no blame. It chose, rather, the path of moral equivalence. It was as if the Oslo Peace Process, Ehud Barak´s extraordinary gestures of rapprochement and the Palestinians´ violent September response followed by its murderous campaign ever since, had never occurred. In the mind of these leaders, all that now remains are two antagonists whose claims and conduct are equally deserving of either attention or condemnation.

No Israeli government in its right mind is likely to agree to placement of international observers in its territory at this time. The reason is obvious: the only "observations" that are likely to be reported are those of a Israeli military response to Palestinian terrorism. Unable to gauge when and where Palestinians terrorists will strike, observers will, the Israelis correctly fear, record Israeli reprisals as acts of aggression. This fear is not without basis. The Palestinian-leaning bias, with which the supposedly independent international media report the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, should be enough to convince just about anybody that impartial monitoring is not feasible.

Whatever the reasons for the G8´s decision to back the international monitors, the signs for Israel are ominous. The convention of the U.N. World Conference on Racism in Durban in September, where the only country identified for condemnation is Israel, adds a telling warning. The country is now viewing the prospect of being wedged between the cold "objectivity" of the international community on one side and continued, if not escalating terrorism on the other. Under these circumstances, the threat of military and diplomatic quarantine may be more serious than at any time since the 1967 war.

For Ariel Sharon´s national unity government, this could only mean one thing: the entire policy of restraint, designed largely to shore up international opinion, is in the process of collapse. The fear of Kosovo-like international intervention, an apprehension that has paralysed the government from rooting out the true sources of Palestinian terror, must now be balanced against the prospect of a militant Arab world, prepared to take advantage of what it perceives to be a psychologically weakened Israel.

If the international doors continue to clang shut, the only avenue left open to Israel, as in 1967, may yet be a massive but decisive retaliation. That could mean a regional war, but it will be a war for which the international community can then proudly claim authorship.

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Avi Davis is senior editorial columnist for Jewsweek.com whose book The Crucible of Conflict: Jews, Arabs and the West Bank Dilemma will be published in the Fall.



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