It's right up there with the U.N. Partition Plan of 1947 and Ehud Barak's offer at Camp David in 1998that is, it's another golden opportunity for the Palestinians to get what they say they've always wanted, autonomy and then a state. Of course, it still seems obvious that what the Palestinians really wantor want first, to be more preciseis the destruction of the state of Israel (see my previous columns for an argument of this). But with the Israeli parliament's vote to support Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan for unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, the Palestinians have a chance to prove me wrong.
There are two possible scenarios that can arise from this new development. If after Israel removes its forces and settlers from Gaza, more rockets fly into southern Israel and more suicide bombers are found to have come from Gaza City, then it can be said definitively (again) that the Palestinians put the killing of Israelis before statehood.
If, however, violence does not escalate, and the Palestinians of Gaza show a commitment to peace, it will be the first true step in that direction since the days of Barak and Yitzhak Rabin. How will they show this commitment? The Palestinian Authority (P.A.) security apparatus must use its new operating freedom to raid bomb factories, arrest terrorists, and patrol Gaza's borders to stop suicide bombers from entering Israel. The P.A. must begin rebuilding its infrastructure by requesting aid money from international organizations and proving that the money is going toward building schools and improving medical care, and not being diverted to buy weapons. Average Palestinians must stop allowing terrorists to operate in their midst, and must stop teaching their children of Jew-killing martyrs.
This fork in the road that the Palestinians face is one that I have written about many times before, and have alluded to already in this column. It is about priorities. In its most pure sense, it is the choice between trying to tear someone else down and trying to build themselves up. Thus far in history, the Palestinians have chosen to participate in a campaign of violence while letting their own society fall into disarray. The time, money, energy, and manpower devoted to killing Israelis could have been used to build and maintain a decent government, run good schools, protect women's rights, and provide adequate medical care. Instead, the Palestinians have chosen to abandon these goals in favor of mass murder. And in doing so, they have put themselves further from getting a state.
And so here they are again, as it was in 1947 and 1998, with a new chance to make the right choice. Taking a step back from the specifics, it is really an amazing situation that we are in: The "far right wing" Israeli prime minister has decided to start "ending the occupation." How about that.
For the Palestinians, the choices are clear: importing stability or exporting murder. Gaining statehood or killing Jews. Accepting the state of Israel or perpetuating violence. It is said that the Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Let's not add another to the list.