Two boxers enter the ring. One is a heavy-weight champion, his
opponent is a feather-weight. Everyone expects a knock-out at the
beginning of the first round.
But, miraculously, the first round ends - and there is no knock-
out. The second round ends - no knock-out. When the feather-
weight is still standing up after the third and fourth round, it
is clear that he is the true winner. Not by a knock-out, not even
on points, but just because he is still standing and fighting
against such a formidable opponent.
This exemplifies the present confrontation between the IDF and
the Palestinian people. The mighty Israeli army has not succeeded
in breaking the backbone of the uprising. It has tried everything
- gunship helicopters, tanks, cannons, liquidations, destruction
of whole neighborhoods, closure, siege, demolition of homes,
uprooting of plantations - and, in the seventh month, the
Palestinians continue to stand on their feet and fight.
In this fight, the Sharon-Peres government enjoys the
overwhelming support of the United States, which provides it with
arms and money and exercises its veto in the Security Council on
Israel's behalf. (Indeed, a European diplomat has said that
Israel is in practice the fifth permanent member of the Security
Council with the veto power.) Europe does pay lip-service to the
Palestinians, but that's all. The Arab regimes, which receive
generous American handouts, are also content with merely donating
kind words to the Palestinians. In Israel itself, all the media
are totally enlisted in the service of the government, there is
no real opposition in the Knesset, and - apart from the small
radical peace-forces, which are boycotted by the media - there is
If so, are the Palestinians helpless against the vast superiority
of the Sharon-Peres government? Not really. They pin their hopes
on several factors.
First: the intifada itself. To the astonishment of the Israeli
generals and commentators, the will of the Palestinian population
has not broken, in spite of the terrible blows it is suffering.
The economy has been demolished, life has become hell, but the
entire Palestinian public supports the struggle.
Somebody has described the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a
"clash between an irresistible force and an immovable object".
The intifada has become a war of attrition. In such a war between
occupier and occupied, the morale of the occupied is stronger,
because he is fighting for his very existence. Napoleon said: "In
war, moral considerations account for three quarters, the balance
of actual forces only for the other quarter."
Israel, too, pays an immense price (nobody in Israel dares to
calculate it), both in terms of money and the great damage caused
to the quality of the IDF. Nobody knows when fatigue will
overcome the will of the Israeli people to go on with this
useless struggle. It will probably happen before the Palestinian
side raises its hands in surrender.
Second: the Arab masses. True, the Arab regimes are not ready to
lift a finger for the Palestinians and they cannot afford to
provoke the Americans, who keep them going with their money. But
the situation of the intellectuals and the masses is quite
different. There the sympathy for the Palestinians is great.
This does not yet bother the kings and presidents. But if
something were to happen that would infuriate the masses in a way
that would endanger the stability of their governments, the
situation would suddenly change completely. In all the Arab
countries there are nationalist and Islamic opposition groups
just waiting for such an opportunity. If Israel commits - even by
accident - an atrocity like the 1996 Kafr Kana incident or an
outrage in the Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount) area, an explosion
A few days ago I had a conversation with Yasser Arafat in
Ramallah. I got the impression that he pins great hopes on Arab
support. He pointed out that a million people had taken part in
one demonstration in Morocco, that for the first time a
demonstration had been held in Saudi Arabia (and a women's
demonstration at that!), and that even in distant Oman angry
demonstrations had taken place. It seems that everybody is
waiting for Sharon to commit the act of brutality that will blow
the situation sky-high.
Third: there is a limit even to the total American support for
Sharon-Peres. From the Palestinian point of view, the Bush
administration may be the worst ever. But it has a definite red
line: the oil. If an explosion were to occur in the Arab world
and the kings and presidents were to send SOS messages to the
White House, an American iron fist would descend on Sharon and
In the meantime, in the 29th week of the fight, there is no