Sharon's Tough Tactics Worked in the Mideast

(Los Angeles Times) Jonathan Chait - Three years ago, Israel faced near-daily suicide bombings. Prime Minister Sharon responded by hastening construction of a security fence and launching a military crackdown in the West Bank and Gaza. Sharon also refused to negotiate with Arafat. The idea that harsh Israeli counter-terrorist measures must inevitably backfire is rooted in the view that the Middle East conflict is a "cycle of violence." According to this theory, Palestinians attack Israelis because Israeli repression makes them desperate and angry. Yet the last Palestinian uprising began as a response not to excessive Israeli strength but to a perception of Israeli weakness. In 2000, Prime Minister Barak withdrew his army from Lebanon in response to continued attacks. Later that year, he made concessions to Arafat in a noble but doomed effort to sign a peace accord. Arafat interpreted both as a sign that he could win even more concessions by unleashing a terrorist campaign. Sharon's counteroffensive stymied Hamas and proved to many ordinary Palestinians that they couldn't bleed Israel back to the bargaining table. Indeed, Palestinians came to realize that their uprising was inflicting far more pain on them than on Israel. Palestinian rejectionism met a stronger Israeli response, which produced mutual accommodation.

2005-02-22 00:00:00

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