Appearances to the contrary, Israel is defeating the Palestinians.
For one piece of proof, note this reversal a few weeks ago: Yasser Arafat announced his belated acceptance of a generous Israeli offer that he had spurned two years earlier. This time, however, the Israelis responded with disdain.
To be sure, the Palestinian campaign of terror continues apace, with frequent, bloody successes. But it has failed to have the intended effect of demoralizing Israelis. Quite the contrary, the violence has promoted a sense of resolve and unity the likes of which Israel has not enjoyed for decades. "Rather than undermine our morale, the terrorist attacks only strengthen our resolve," observes writer Yossi Klein Halevi. A "notoriously fractious society has rediscovered its commonality," he concludes.
In contrast, consider three ways in which the Palestinians' own violence is causing them to suffer, lose ground and have doubts:
* Palestinian impoverishment. Two years of terrorism has brought on huge economic losses to Palestinians. Unemployment is variously estimated between 40 percent and 70 percent. Underemployment is no less dramatic: "University graduates, architects and engineers, men who once wore suits, now hawk flavored water, fruit, paper napkins and chewing gum alongside street children with their hands for alms," reports The Chicago Tribune.
As a result, more than 50 percent of residents on the West Bank and some 80 percent in Gaza live below the poverty line, according to one recent survey. Just getting food is a problem. "I've been confined to my home for more than a month. I have eight children, we've eaten all we have," laments a falafel seller in Nablus.
He is hardly alone: Preliminary results of a survey conducted in the Palestinian areas by Johns Hopkins University finds 30 percent of children suffering from chronic malnutrition and another 21 percent from acute malnutrition. (This said, even the Palestinians acknowledge that no one has died of starvation.)
The Palestinian Authority itself is nearly bankrupt, unable to pay salaries or other expenses.
* Palestinian depression. Palestinian violence has ended normal life in the West Bank and Gaza, where the population labors under curfews, transportation barely moves, schools are mostly shut and hospitals hardly function.
The result is severe depression. "Today is my wedding day, and I want to die," exclaimed a bride who had few guests at her marriage, no food to serve them and hardly any presents from them.
Misery leads some Palestinians to even contemplate the unmentionable; "I don't say [Israeli] occupation would be better," said a farmer in Jericho who let his peppers wilt on the vine. "But if they were occupying us, at least the city might be open," permitting his produce to get to market.
More broadly, 55 Palestinian intellectuals and public figures signed a petition in June condemning the continuation of suicide bombings in Israel. Ehud Ya'ari of the Jerusalem Report notes that "instead of automatic applause for the attacks, there is now a readiness to allow expressions of doubtfulness and dissent."
* Palestinian recruitment woes. The unremitting Palestinian campaign of violence has prompted what appear to be effective Israeli countermeasures. Destroying the houses of suicide bombers' families, for example, dissuaded at least two would-be suicide bombers in recent days from carrying out their operations. Israel's Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, for one, detects in this particular development "the initial signs of deterrence" at work.
The highly trained cadres of the war's opening months have been replaced by hastily recruited volunteers or in some cases (such as the planted bomb at the Hebrew University cafeteria) different means entirely. Hamas publicly acknowledges that it needs to find new methods against Israel, suggesting that the 70 suicide attacks of the past two years cannot be sustained.
The unwillingness of Hamas leaders to dispatch their own children to their deaths adds piquancy to this evolution. Israeli media have widely played recordings of a Hamas leader's wife as she is entreated to allow her son to become "one of the martyrs." To this she stiffly replies that the boy "is not involved in any of that . . . my son is busy with his studies."
In brief, terrorism is not working. It takes a toll on the Palestinians without having the intended effect on Israel. Barring a major change, the Palestinians will wear themselves out fairly soon, probably by the year's end.