Enough is enough

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 May, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 May, 2002, 12:00am

The all-too-familiar cycle of tit-for-tat violence has started anew in the Middle East, but this time things must be different. Mediation, not military might, is the only way for peace to break out and Israel has no option but to take this step.

Conflicts have rarely been fully resolved by brute force. This will certainly be true for the Israelis and Palestinians who, like it or not, are neighbours. Their bloody history will not be resolved by labelling each other 'terrorists' or using tanks and sharp-shooters, or, indeed, suicide bombers.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon refuses to treat Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat as an equal. He has sidelined the hero of the Palestinian people, humiliating him and accusing him of directing and arming suicide bombers.

The United States, Israel's closest ally and the best chance to bring both parties together, has not helped by blaming Mr Arafat for not doing enough to stop the attacks.

Such views publicly expressed do nothing to ease the tension. While Israelis continue to build settlements on Palestinian lands and treat their neighbours as third-class citizens, there will never be peace.

Mr Arafat cannot personally affect the minds and hearts of his people. He cannot extinguish their outrage, built up over many years. He cannot stop all extremists from fighting perceived injustices, however misguided their methods.

So long as Mr Arafat is unable to negotiate for his people's rights, many extremists will vent their anger with tragic consequences. Suicide attacks, like that on Tuesday when a bomber killed himself and at least 16 other people at a billiards club in Rishon Lezion, south of Tel Aviv, can only be totally condemned. But there is a genuine feeling among some Palestinians - a minority no doubt - that this is the only option available to them.

Only the desperate take their own lives and the suicide attacks are proof that the Palestinians are desperate. Their internal media has been destroyed and their leadership ignored. The foes have to talk at the highest-possible level. There must be impartial, fair mediators. Only then will the cycle of violence end.