Friday, April 19, 2002

I saw UN Envoy Terje Roed-Larsen (a Norwegian) on Israeli TV tonight. Larsen is a quintissential present-day European - he verbally condemns Palestinian violence but doesn't seem to understand why Israelis won't just soak it up or cave in to the Palestinians.

Larsen was respectfully interviewed for 10 minutes or so, and spoke the whole time in a calm and unflinching manner. He began by describing the destruction in Jenin, and saying that he didn't know exactly what happened, but that the stench of death was evident. He supplied some other horrifying anecdotes.

When the discussion turned to diplomacy, Larsen said there now exists unprecedented international consensus regarding the Middle East: united initiatives on the part of the US/EU/UN, the Saudi plan endorsed by the Arab League, and a couple of new UN resolutions including one that puts Israel and the Palestinian state on equal footing. Larsen says that the diplomatic situation is at its best, but the situation on the ground is at its worst. To rectify the situation, all issues - security, diplomacy, political, economic - at the same time. We have learned, he says, that the approach of focusing on security first is not effective.

A few things were quite remarkable:

- Larsen never says outright "you Israelis are the problem", though that's the clear implication.
- He tries to create an image of a sensibly-minded world unified against Israel.
- There's a kind of undercurrent message which is "we must move quickly, since if Palestinians don't become satisfied quickly, Palestinian violence will return"

I can actually imagine some dreamy-eyed leftists listening to Larsen and convincing themselves that he's right. It's much easier to live in an intelligible world where you can blame yourself rather than a cruel one where you need to be tough to survive.

Larsen's last remark about "the approach of putting security first has not been effective" riles me the most. Really what he means is that any approach which makes any requirements at all of the Palestinians will not be effective. So the only approach that will work for a while is one where Israelis make concrete concessions and get nothing in return.

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