As calm is slowly restored to the Arab territories under Israeli occupation, and among the Arabs who are citizens of Israel itself, the world will likely turn to other problems. And once again neglect and passivity will fuel the frustrations of the Middle East, building pressures for yet another bloody outbreak.
These riots are a tragedy measured in the deaths of more than 20 Arabs, among them children, shot dead by Israeli troops; in the mounting casualty lists, and in the growing numbers of Arabs deported or incarcerated, their animosity reinforced. But these riots also mark the signal failure of the state of Israel to come to terms both with its occupation and with its rapidly growing Arab population.
As Paul Johnson, the historian, argued so well in these pages on Wednesday, hopelessness was the critical motivating factor for the violence--hopelessness bred of Israel's inability to agree either on short-term or long-term goals for the Middle East. Each recent election in Israel has measured the absolute impasse that exists between those who would sue for peace and those who are determined to hold the occupied territories and expand beyond them.
The process of negotiations would be facilitated by agreement among the Arabs themselves to accept Israel and a peaceful relationship with the Jewish state. The inability of the Palestinians themselves to make an unqualified commitment to the U.N. Security Council resolutions has made more difficult the efforts of those within Israel who understand the danger of maintaining the occupation and appreciate the potential for negotiations. But Arab intransigence need not justify Israeli stubbornness, and certainly cannot excuse the rhetoric of Ariel Sharon, a cabinet minister, when he said on Tuesday: "First and foremost, we're talking about Jewish lives. It's about time we stop worrying so much about others, about everybody, about the Jordanians, about the Palestinians."