Rondi Adamson says Palestinians must first show good intent

The Toronto Star, August 21, 2005


Given that a majority of Israelis do not support keeping the Gaza settlements, there was little likelihood Ariel Sharon could have made any other decision than to disengage. That's how democracies work.

But whether or not Israel should withdraw from all the disputed territories is another matter, one which depends largely on the aftermath of the Gaza withdrawal. The disengagement is a bold move that should earn Israel praise and support from the world community. It should also give Israelis increased security. But that remains to be seen.

Palestinians now have a golden opportunity. But they have had those before, many times. Going over them all would require far more space than this column allows. The most recent was in 2000. Unprecedented concessions were offered by the government of Ehud Barak. Yasser Arafat, as always, not acting in the best interests of the people he purported to care about, walked away. Until the election of Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian leaders had stood by while terror obstructed hope, or worse, encouraged that terror.

Abbas has a chance to change that. Islamist murderers and jihadists would prefer for him not to succeed - were a Palestinian state to coexist with Israel they would have no more "excuse" for flying airplanes into buildings and strapping dynamite to themselves, and the jig would be up.

Abbas's task is no small one, but he can prove he is a worthy partner-in-peace to the Israelis by bringing moderate Palestinian voices to the forefront, by showing his willingness to destroy Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and other groups, by reforming a school system that encourages violence and teaches anti-Jewish propaganda, and by bringing about rule of law.

Rule of law is the key difference between the Jewish state and the Arab Muslim world. Let's look at what has happened this week. The Gaza settlements were the result of misguided decisions by Sharon, among others. Now, Sharon is doing the necessary to reverse those decisions.

This takes guts. I would like, to see any Palestinian leader reverse any mistake, even a tiny one. On top of this, we see a serious, democratic state enforcing legal decisions against its own population, decisions that are painful and which many are passionately against. I desperately, longingly, await any Palestinian leader demonstrating like-minded behaviour, or of showing the smallest shred of such capability. Or even of understanding the concept.

So before Israel gives more away and makes more concessions, they deserve evidence that the Gaza decision will represent improvement. This is already looking dubious.

On Wednesday, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal declared the disengagement was "proof the armed struggle has borne fruit."

Should Gaza become nothing more than a base from which Hamas launches missiles into neighbouring Israeli communities, it would be clear to even the most obtuse that dismantling settlements on the West Bank would simply be rewarding violence and that Israel should forget about peace and simply do what is best for its own safety.

Rondi Adamson is a Toronto writer whose work has appeared in the Christian Science Monitor and USA Today. She recently visited Israel on a trip sponsored by the Canada-Israel Committee, a pro-Israel advocacy group.


Copyright 2005 Toronto Star Newspapers, Ltd.