Netanyahu's boomerang Jerusalem tunnel: Palestinian violence was provoked and predictable.

September 27, 1996

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu was elected on the slogan, "Peace with security," but his policies to date have alienated peace and reduced security for Israel. He has sought to improve relations with the wider Arab world while ostentatiously putting Palestinians in their place, unilaterally applying his own interpretations to past accords and defying Palestinians to like it or lump it.

Such policies as allowing Jewish settlements on the West Bank to expand or delaying redeployment of troops from Hebron or opening the long-dug tunnel behind the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem are sometimes defended as showing Palestinians (and his supporters in the Likud Party) that Israel alone is sovereign and will decide matters.

The real suggestion is that the Palestinians must take what they are given and be grateful and have no other choice. The widely orchestrated Palestinian protests of the past two days showed otherwise. But these were also confusing in their message. For the first time, Palestinian police actually fought Israeli troops. That is, some did. Others protected trapped Israeli troops from angry mobs or prevented youngsters from committing violence.

That Palestinian mobs marched malevolently toward two tiny isolated Israeli settlements in Gaza might have been expected. Mr. Netanyahu could not provide settlers with security by frustrating and infuriating Palestinians and backtracking on agreements made by the previous Israeli government. The isolated settlements can be protected by peaceful relations, not for long by guns.

The Oslo accord between Israel and the PLO is the cornerstone of Israel's entree to peace and trade with Arab countries, reciprocal tourism with Jordan, possible cooperation with Egypt, environmental and touristic joint ventures. Remove the cornerstone and the rest falls.

Mr. Netanyahu values these things. Now that he has shown Israeli hawks that he is tough, he needs to demonstrate a desire for accommodation with Palestinian neighbors. Positive and constructive gestures are required.

Mr. Netanyahu called Mr. Arafat from Germany and demanded that Mr. Arafat restrain the Palestinian police. Every indication is that Mr. Arafat complied with his request. Now it is Mr. Netanyahu's turn to demonstrate restraint, even at the risk of criticism by his hard-line supporters.

Pub Date: 9/27/96

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