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The more things change. . .

the more they stay the same. Palestinians continue to name their babies after Saddam in record numbers, and to urge him to attack Israel with chemical weapons, while at the same time expecting that once Saddam is defeated the U.S. will force Israel to re-start the “peace process” by making new concessions. It happened after the first Gulf War and will probably happen again. This time, the pretext will be sham democratic reforms on the part of Arafat. The pressure on President Bush to repeat the error of his father will come from Colin Powell and Tony Blair, and will probably be irresistible. The “road map” for this scenario is spelled out in this column by the vapid Richard Cohen. Notice how, even as Cohen leads the cheers for a new peace process, he stops short of claimng that it will actually bring about peace.
As for the notion that the Palestinians are about to embrace democracy, Barbara Lerner peels away that fig-leaf in this piece for National Review Online. She argues that the Palestinians will never organize themselves democratically. Lerner reasons that democracy holds little appeal to Arabs living in the nations of the southern half of the Middle East, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and that the Palestinians, lacking any culture that pre-dates their current hatreds, are even less likely than the Egyptians and the Saudis to develop the non-predatory national identity that is the prerequisite for democracy.
Lerner’s argument is elegant and plausible. But “never” is a long time, and it is far from clear that the conditions she describes preclude the eventual establishment of a Palestinian democracy. On the other hand, Lerner is probably closer to mark than our State Department, which is ready to vouch for the existence of a fledgling Palestinian democracy based solely on its desire to begin coercing Israel.

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