Thursday, December 06, 2001

THE THIRD OPTION: Some astute Blogger recently observed --

-- and, by the way, maybe I've come to the party a little late myself, but it seems like there's been an incredible upsurge in really great, independent online writing since 9/11, and I'm afraid it's more than I can do to absorb and remember every credit when it comes time to link to it --

--Anyway, where was I? --

Some astute Blogger or online columnist recently observed -- and I'll just paraphrase as best I can, with a little of my own spin -- that Israel has two options, both lousy: They can either (1) become a garrison state, expel every legal and illegal resident Palestinian alike (thereby undercutting their own economy by eliminating cheap underclass labor), put up barbed-wire fences around the entire perimeter, and dig in for the long haul -- or they can go for broke and (2) reoccupy the West Bank and install its own governing body over a resentful population devoted to the rearing of generation after generation of nihilistic 17-year-olds, whose greatest ambition is to become human shrapnel delivery systems.

But then there's the Third Option -- the least worst case: Fomenting civil war. And at at this writing, it seems as though the Third Option is beginning to play out. This week's all-stick/no-carrot ultimatum amounts to a direct appeal to rational moderates among the Palestinian people themselves -- that it is up to them to replace the irrelevant Arafat with courageous new leadership genuinely interested reaching a long-term accommodation with Israel -- or else, look forward to the implementation of Options One or Two in very short order.

This morning, BBC News reports that the Palestinian Authority / Hamas alliance is on the brink of collapse under this pressure. "We are all angry at the corrupt Palestinian leadership," one Hamas supporter said, and accused the Palestinian police of trying to provoke a "civil war." From Israel's perspective, better news there could not be.

Further, the latest trial balloon floating around is that West Bank security should become Jordan's problem. If true, one could reasonably postulate that Israel is edging toward the idea of cutting the Palestinians out of the deal altogether, eventually allowing Jordan to re-annex significant parts of the West Bank. This notion -- that Jordan is and always should have been recognized as the historical and logical Palestinian homeland -- may well be a non-starter, and it may never be taken seriously. But if Israel is seen to be edging in that direction with America's blessing, and non-Arab world opinion is agnostic on the question, history could be about to take a sharp turn into uncharted territory.

The question is, how much longer can Arafat cling to power and stand in the way of history? Mind Over What Matters will go out on a limb and predict that his remaining term in office can be measured in hours. (Fortunately, the penalty for being wrong is to shrug and say, "So I was wrong. So?")

UPDATE: 24 hours later, Palestinian civil war is breaking out, almost as if on cue.


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