The end of the siege

The European Union finally played its due role in the Middle East crisis, agreeing to host 13 Palestinian «terrorists,» according to the Israeli administration, or «heroes,» as they were labeled by the Palestinians. This came after Israeli troops pulled out of Bethlehem, marking the end of a 38-day siege of the Church of the Nativity. Christian Europe tolerated this unacceptable situation without daring to impose even symbolic economic sanctions on the Israelis. It would be interesting to imagine what the Jewish reaction in Europe and the United States would have been had a Christian military force laid siege to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem – even for security reasons. What has, once again, been confirmed is that Israel enjoys a peculiar status of immunity, regardless of the methods it chooses to employ. However, it is obviously not politically correct to say this in public, especially if one does not exercise criticism from a leftist perspective. It would be absurd and naive to try to predict the outcome of the so-called peacemaking process because that question falls under the exclusive responsibility of the United States, even though it is hard to trace what part of the American administration is charged with making policy on the Palestinian issue. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon – who is one of the country’s most capable politicians and who has no inferiority complex toward Europe or the US – has no doubt achieved a new victory against Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat as he did in the 1982 «Peace for Galilee» operation, whereby he crushed the military branch of the PLO. It remains to be seen whether this nationalist leader will manage to safeguard peace, so much desired by Israeli citizens, or whether he will avert, as he seeks, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. It should be noted, however, that his military victory over the Palestinians in 1982 gave an international and political dimension to the Palestinian problem. What is certain is that the Palestinian crisis has fueled strong anti-American sentiment in Europe, skepticism toward Israel, and a revival of anti-Semitism. International developments, of course, should be seen in light of their domestic repercussions. As regards the temporary transfer of the group of Palestinian militants to Cyprus: «By this act Cyprus is already cooperating effectively with the EU, even before the enlargement,» European Parliament President Pat Cox said in Nicosia on Friday. He added that Cyprus’s geographic position and its historical ties with the Middle East should contribute to the enhancement of the EU’s strategic importance in the region. Cox’s view will be judged at the end of the year, when Greece’s EU peers will be called upon to decide on Cyprus’s EU accession even without a prior solution to the political dispute, hence risking a crisis in their relations with Ankara. Until then, everyone can brag about the transfer of the 13 Palestinians to EU states. Sharon, of course, may well ask for their extradition, being confident that Europe will finally consent to his demand.