Crackdown, or Rethink

RISING fear between Israelis and Palestinians threatens the recent peace between the two - a peace that led to the kind of treaty between Israel and Jordan that President Clinton will witness in the Middle East tomorrow.

The Hamas sabotage, including a bomb in Tel Aviv, a city never before penetrated, leaves Israelis wondering what to do. The bombing was not a strike at a military target but a cold-blooded killing of innocent civilians. Arabs may argue that Israeli troops in the occupied territories - and last week in Lebanon - continue to kill Arab civilians; but this does not excuse such tactics.

Israel has cracked down on Hamas, closing Gaza and the West Bank, and bombing southern Lebanon, where it says the terror was planned. Yet this reaction is not a real answer. As Israelis and the world get over the shock of these acts, there must be a broader consideration of why they occurred, and what can be done about them, if peace with justice is to emerge.

Hamas violence, inexcusable as it is, is not a surprising result of the deal Yasser Arafat, chairman of the PLO, signed with Israel on Sept. 13, 1993. For Hamas and many others, the treaty that led to three Nobel prizes is an unjust surrender of the Palestinian claim for a state. They feel Mr. Arafat was tricked.

Actually, they have a point. When Arafat met Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on the White House lawn, the world assumed he knew what he was doing. Peace was at hand.

Yet as the Declaration of Principles (DOP) he signed was negotiated, it became clear that Arafat had traded 45 years of Palestinian aspirations to statehood for administration of a tribal reservation in Israel. He has no authority, no Jerusalem, no state. Joel Singer, legal adviser to Mr. Rabin, says, ``The provisions of the DOP ensure that Israel, through its military government, shall continue to be the source of authority'' in the territories, including Gaza and Jericho.

Hamas now represents the only organized resistance to apartheid conditions that continue in the territories. Arafat's only power is to police Gaza, and Palestinians see him arresting his people - the job Israelis used to do. A crackdown and closing of borders by Israel will feed Hamas's popularity. Is this what Israel wants? Israelis deserve to be secure. This can't be overstated. Yet security can't be bought at the cost of the rights of the Palestinian people.

It is in Israel's interest to rethink the DOP and reinterpret it - allowing Arafat more room to develop a constituency, hold elections, develop civil authority, and achieve a state. The Israeli writer Simha Flapan noted in the 1970s, ``In the long run, the eradication of terrorism is possible only by eliminating the condition that breeds it. Palestinian terrorism is a result of statelessness and a refugee existence. Only a political solution that offers the prospect of statehood, of a normal economy and a productive life'' will end it.


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