JERUSALEM -- EVERY FOREIGN military invasion has a pre-defined end called "withdrawal." The hideous Israeli incursion of internationally recognized Palestinian territories is no exception. Every military operation has a defined political goal, yet Israeli Prime Minister Sharon seems to be keeping this a secret from his cabinet, the Israeli people, indeed, the world.
Tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, Israel will need to decide to which border it will withdraw its troops. Israel can choose to move back to one of the hundreds of its self-defined "security" borders, or it can, once and for all, choose to end the never-ending spiral of violence by finally implementing U.N. resolutions and withdrawing back to the June 4, 1967, borders, thus closing a chapter of its senseless military occupation.
The infamous Sharon knows this very well, and he also knows that his time is limited to rampage through Palestinian cities, institutions and lives. U.S.-armed Israel can occupy, and re-occupy, Palestinian lands over and over, and under any media slogan that fits the times, but will never rid itself of the legitimate Palestinian resistance to end the illegal Israeli occupation that has haunted it, and the world, for 35 years now.
Palestinians went to Madrid, Oslo, Camp David and Taba and extended the greatest concession ever voluntarily made by an indigenous people -- to relinquish 78 percent of their ancestral homeland so Jews around the world could fulfill their own dream of a homeland.
In return, the world community expected the Israeli occupiers to dismantle their illegal occupation on the 22 percent of Palestinian lands that remained -- the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
What Palestinians received instead was a package of Israeli aggression like never before.
Israeli policy makers have become blinded by the suicide bombings to the point that they cannot comprehend that their own military occupation of Palestinian lands is generating not only suicide bombers, but also a united community increasingly feeling that any future co-existence may be impossible given the deafening silence of Israeli public opinion toward the continuing occupation.
Suicide bombings are totally immoral and serve no strategic goal, but have been totally successful in feeding into the political plans of maniac military professionals like Ariel Sharon and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
Well-oiled public-relations campaigns from Washington and Tel Aviv portray the Palestinian victim as the rapist and the Israeli rapist as a poor soul with a dire need for a security fix. In spite of this, Palestinians are going out of their way to facilitate the entry of Israel into the Mideast as an equal, legitimate entity and a partner for the future. With the Arab League offer for normalization with Israel if U.N. resolutions are implemented, the Arab world too, as a whole, is giving Israel a respectable way out.
Unfortunately, Sharon and Peres are missing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and would rather turn every single Palestinian citizen's life upside down hoping for mass submission, which will never come.
History will judge the Palestinian leadership on its political wisdom, but Israel cannot wait for history. Israel must choose today between peace on internationally recognized terms with the dispossessed indigenous people of their state or face another half-century of isolation with the backdrop of a rapidly encroaching demographics dilemma as the Palestinian population surges.
For our part, we as two citizens of this troubled region offer President Bush and his administration a history book of Palestine and the Palestinians. For the Palestinian and Israeli leaderships, their part starts with an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders and a Palestinian commitment to remain committed, which Mr. Arafat amazingly still is even under gunfire, to resolving the remaining issues of refugees, settlements and security in a new and improved peace process.
Today, we write as a Palestinian living under Israeli attack, a few hundred meters from Arafat's compound, and an Israeli, living a few hundred meters from one of the latest suicide bombings.
There is a way out.
Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American businessman living in Al-Bireh, in the West Bank. Michael Dahan is as an Israeli-American political scientist living in Jerusalem.
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