On Sunday, January 8, it is raining hard at the Muqata, the former Ramallah headquarters—and now the burial place—of Yasir Arafat. The courtyard has become a building site. The Palestinian Authority (P.A.) is constructing a vast mausoleum and mosque around Arafat's tomb, which now stands on a muddy island, unreachable by the trickle of visitors. A short ride away, Arafat's old nemesis, Ariel Sharon, lies in a medically induced coma at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.
Imagine the likelihood of thousands of American students, intellectuals, and Hollywood celebrities marching in support of George W. Bush, and you will begin to appreciate the marvel of the Israeli leftists now rallying around Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Reviled for engineering the Lebanon war, for masterminding the settlement movement, for opposing every attempt at reconciliation with the Palestinians, and as the personification of Israeli militarism and anti-Arab racism, Sharon today is viewed by many leftists as the settlers' bete noire and Israel's foremost champion of peace.
For more than a decade, you could take several things for granted in Turkey. Islamists normally had no role in government, the army was ultimately in charge of politics, and Ankara was a staunch ally of Israel. The rise of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's popular prime minister, whose party was elected in 2002 in the biggest vote in recent Turkish history, changed the first two assumptions. Erdogan hails from an Islamic party that had pushed for the legalization of the headscarf and other blurrings of the line between mosque and state.
THE APRIL 14 meeting between President Bush and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was a climactic moment of both grim and hopeful truth. For Sharon and the Likud, it represented the belated and ideologically embittering acknowledgment of demography—the recognition that Israel can safely preserve its Jewish and democratic character only if its territory contains a hefty majority of Jews.
Some two million Israeli homes recently received in the mail the 47-page text of the Geneva Accord, which claims to be the comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Accord, a European-funded effort secretly negotiated by Palestinian officials and Israeli public figures for two years--and signed in a symbolic, lavish ceremony in Geneva this week--states that Israel will withdraw to the 1967 borders, a Palestinian state will emerge with its capital in Jerusalem, and the two peoples will recognize each other's right to statehood and resolve the refugee issue.
The Palestinian People: A History By Baruch Kimmerling and Joel S.
Yehuda Amichai, the great Hebrew poet dead a year now, a friend of The New Republic and its editors, wrote a poem two decades ago that began: The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters And the diameter of its effective range about seven meters, With four dead and eleven wounded... There has been little progress in the dynamics of peace since those stark lines were written. But over time, the Arabs of Palestine have refined the mechanics of random killing.
One of the most vivid experiences of my time as a graduate student at Harvard was a seminar I took with the preeminent liberal political theorist John Rawls. The discussion centered on Rawls's later work, in which he divorced his liberalism from the claim of absolute truth. His argument was only cogent, he averred, if read and understood by people who already shared some basic premises--the need for consent, the reliance on reason, a tone of civility, a relatively open mind.
Five years ago—five years and two months, to be exact—I wrote in these pages that "no president of the United States has had such valent sympathy for Israel as President Clinton." "You could see it on his face," I went on, "...