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Jewish World Review Nov. 9, 2000/ 11 Mar-Cheshvan, 5761

Suzanne Fields

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A Middle East legacy -- FOREIGN POLICY wasn't a big part of the debate in the presidential campaigns, but it will be a big part of the new president's job.

While Americans were casting votes for their favorite candidates and nearly everybody in the United States was cheering democracy at work, Israelis were trying to protect their country's fragile democracy, growing disillusioned by the day with the so-called "peace process.''

So President Clinton, now a very lame duck, decided once more to summon Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to Washington. But this time he'll talk to them at separate times on separate days with even lower expectations than he had for the Camp David summit.

A cartoon in the Jerusalem Post expresses the growing Israeli sentiment: "We were supposed to deal with Arafat because he could control them,'' says one Israeli to another. "Now we're supposed to deal with Arafat because he can't control them.''

Camp David failed for many reasons, but George Shultz, the secretary of state for Ronald Reagan, identifies one crucial reason. Arafat wasn't ready and the meeting forced him to the table at a time when the Palestinians wouldn't let him accept even the most liberal terms. Many Israelis argue that Barak, goaded by a paternalistic President Clinton, pushed too much, too hard and too fast.

Muslims, according to Arafat, would have considered the terms offered at Camp David a betrayal, that his acceptance would have led to his assassination. "I could have gone to heaven to have coffee with Yitzhak Rabin,'' he told Mike Wallace on "60 Minutes.''

If Arafat wasn't ready to deal with Barak at Camp David, he's less capable of dealing with him today. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the most radical faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and Hamas, the terrorist organization, urged him to cancel his trip. Arafat wants a United Nations international force in the territories, something neither Israel nor the United States could accept.

Barak is weaker now, too. "With his people under attack and his enemies emboldened by the day,'' writes Natan Sharansky, the Russian immigrant leader who opposes the Barak concessions, "Barak and his minions pathetically talk of the need to resume peace talks with the Palestinians.''

Mr. Sharansky's criticism is both specific and general, and he raises a point often lost. Whereas democratic leaders are dependent on the will of the people, authoritarian leaders, such as Arafat, must control the minds and the bodies of their subjects to maintain their control. Their survival depends on their keeping flames fanned.

For years Arafat has kept the vitriol against Israel pouring out of Palestinian television and radio. Children read newly printed textbooks illustrated with maps that show no Israel. Instead of "Sesame Street,'' appealing to the joys of being a child, Palestinian preschoolers learn to appreciate the bliss of being a suicide-bomber for Allah. Palestinian children are taught to grow up to be martyrs with their parents as willing accomplices. How else explain why so many mothers and fathers haven't pulled their preteen-age stone-throwers out of the streets?

"If my son was 10 and throwing stones at armed soldiers,'' says one Israeli mother, "you can bet your life I would be out there dragging him off the street and locking him in his room. He'd be grounded forever.''

Arafat knows that the death of every Palestinian child evokes greater world sympathy. He has used his propaganda machine to maintain personal power, demonizing the enemy and rallying his followers. Propaganda machines, however, aren't as easy to turn off as to start, particularly in the hands of extremist groups like Hamas. If Arafat believes that violence encourages his bargaining position with Israel, he must also fear the he can lose all credibility as a negotiator if he cannot put an end to the violence.

The Clinton administration, humbled by failure at Camp David, says that the meetings this week with Barak and Arafat are more exploratory than programmatic, to see whether the two men have enough "commonality'' to return to the peace table. If they do, it's not likely to be soon. A new timetable, or a new failure, will be Bill Clinton's Middle East "legacy'' to the new president, and to the world.


11/06/00: Filling in the dots at campaign's end
11/02/00: His own man in full
10/30/00: The Oval Office, through a glass brightly
10/23/00: There'll always be an England. Maybe.
10/19/00: The celebrity candidate
10/16/00: 'Ladies night' at the second debate
10/12/00: Gore vs. Bush: Volvo vs. Maserati
10/10/00: We weep for Rami for he is dead
10/05/00: Looking at Lieberman from inside the 'ghetto'
10/02/00: Campaigns, candidates, and kissy-face
09/28/00: Laughing and crying over Joe Lieberman
09/21/00: Targeting teenagers for money
09/21/00: Sexual politics in New York
09/18/00: Surviving the stereotypes and debates
09/14/00: Gloria Steinem runs cheerfully into captivity
09/12/00: Sex in the eye of the partisan
09/07/00: 'Sex and death' on the college campus
09/05/00: Joe Lieberman as a 'Menorah Man'
08/31/00: Rising suns of the conventions
08/17/00: Changing icons: From Loretta Young to Hillary Clinton
08/14/00: The Creator returns to the public square
08/10/00: Bursting with pride, but caution too
08/07/00: Brains, beauty and beastly politics
08/03/00: A candidate with a superego
07/31/00: The sizzling Lynne Cheney
07/27/00: The party of the aging Playboys
07/24/00 Hillary drives the Jewish wagon into a ditch
07/20/00 Conservatives gone fishin'
07/17/00: Snoop Doggy Dogg was a founding father, wasn't he?
07/13/00: When a teenager doesn't need a prime minister
07/10/00: Abortion as cruel and unusual punishment
07/06/00: Surviving 'survivor' TV
07/03/00: Independence Day with Norman Rockwell
06/29/00: Here comes 'something old'
06/26/00: Waiting too long for the baby
06/22/00: Good teachers, curious students and oxymorons
06/19/00: Wanted: Some ants for Gore's pants
06/15/00: Like father, like daughter
06/12/00: Culture wars and conservative warriors
06/08/00: Return of the housewife
06/05/00: Hillary and Al -- playing against type
05/31/00: The sexual revolution confronts the SUV
05/25/00: Waiting for the movie
05/22/00: Pistol packin' mamas
05/18/00: Journalists and the 'new time' religion
05/15/00: There's nothing like a (military) dame
05/11/00: 'The Human Stain' on campus
05/09/00: We've come a long way, Betty Friedan
05/04/00: From George Washington to Mansa Masu
05/01/00: Gore's ruthless doublespeak
04/28/00: Doing it Castro's way
04/24/00: Women's studies beget narrow minds
04/17/00: The slippery slope of anti-Semitism
04/13/00: A villain larger than life
04/10/00: When mourning becomes an economic tragedy
04/03/00: The last permissible bigotry
03/30/00: Seeking the political Oscar
03/23/00: The gaying of America
03/20/00: Pointy-eared quadrupeds on campus
03/16/00: The shocking art of the establishment
03/13/00: Sawdust on the campaign trail
03/10/00: Campaign rhetoric of manhood
03/06/00: The Amphetamine of the People
03/02/00: Elegy for Amadou
02/29/00: With only a million, what's a poor girl to do?
02/24/00: The changing politics of change
02/16/00: Tip from Hillary: 'Let 'em eat eggs'
02/10/00: No seances with Eleanor
02/07/00: Campaigning like our founding fathers
02/03/00: When neo-Nazis have short memories
01/31/00: George W. -- 'Ladies man' and 'man's man'
01/27/00: Dead white males and live white politicians
01/25/00: Smarting over presidential smarts
01/21/00: A post-modern song for `The Sopranos'
01/19/00: When personality is a long-distance plus
01/13/00: French lessons in amour --- and marriage
01/10/00: Reaching for the Big Golden Apple
01/07/00: Liddy Dole as the face of feminism
01/04/00: Hillary: From victim to victor
12/30/99: 'Dream catchers' for the millennium
12/27/99: In search of a candidate with strength and eloquence
12/21/99: The president as First Lady
12/16/99: Columbine with blurred hindsight
12/09/99: Homeless deserve discriminating attention
12/07/99: Casual censors and deadly know-nothings
12/02/99: Why mom didn't make general: A reality tale
11/30/99: Potholes on the road to the Promised Land
11/25/99: A feast for the spirit and the stomach
11/23/99: Fathers need to say 'I (can) do'
11/18/99: Adventures of a conservative pundit
11/15/99: Traveling with Jefferson on the information highway
11/11/99: Wanted: 'Foliage of forbiddinness' for the oval office
11/09/99: Eggs, art and rotten commerce
11/05/99: Al Gore, 'Alpha Male'. Bow wow.
11/01/99: Gay love
10/28/99: Lose one Dole, lose two
10/26/99: Rebels with a violent cause
10/21/99: Reforming parents, reforming schools
10/19/99: The male mystique -- he shops
10/13/99:The campaign of the Teletubbies
10/08/99: Money is in the eye of the art dealer
10/01/99: Lincoln's 'Almost Chosen People'
09/29/99: Introducing Bill and Hillary Bickerson
09/27/99: Must we wait for the next massacre?
09/24/99: Miss America meets Miss'd America
09/21/99: Princeton's 'professor death'
09/16/99: The Cisneros lesson
09/13/99: No clemency for personal politics
09/08/99: M-M-M is for manhood
08/30/99: Blocking the schoolhouse door
08/27/99: No kick from cocaine
08/23/99: Movies don't kill people
08/19/99: A rude awakening
08/16/99: Dubyah and that 'language' thing
08/09/99: Chauvinist sows -- oink oink

©1999, Suzanne Fields. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate