Published in The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle
The Palestinians have begun a prolonged guerrilla war of attrition against Israel, emulating Hizballah after the Islamic guerrilla group’s perceived success in forcing Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon in May. Arafat’s aim is to bring Israel to its knees and get it to agree to all his dictated demands which, if accepted, will lead to the ultimate destruction of the Jewish state.
Prime Minister Barak, who just resigned and forced an early election in Israel within 60 days, prefers to ignore the warning signs and continues talking about “seeking a fresh mandate for negotiating a peace deal” with the Palestinians. He believes that offering additional concessions and imposing restraints on the military are the only solutions to the conflict. However, signs on the ground show that the present cycle of violence is irreversible and a worsening conflict with the Palestinians inevitable.
During the last 7 years, Arafat’s ultimate goal has been the same. Arafat has repeatedly declared in the Arab media that the Oslo agreement is the first step in implementing the 1974 PLO “Phased Plan”, a step by step strategy to destroy Israel. The plan calls for the establishment of a state on any territories vacated by Israel and for Israeli Arabs to claim their right for independence through intifada in regions inside Israel with Arab majorities such as the Negev and Galilee It also includes the Palestinian demand termed the “right of return” which calls for the resettlement of approximately 3.5 million descendants of Palestinians who left Israel in 1948-50 into Israel proper which would destroy the character of the Jewish state under a demographic tidal wave. Of course, a final assault on a smaller Israel with the help of other Arab countries would ensure its ultimate destruction.
After the forced retreat from Lebanon, many Arabs, including Arafat, believe it is possible to force Israel to retreat unilaterally from territories in the West Bank and inside Israel by inflicting a prolonged sustained daily loss of life on the Israelis. They now believe there is a way to exhaust Israel’s will. Arafat’s strategy includes a long, low intensity daily war against Israeli military and civilian targets in the territories and inside Israel as well as international diplomacy to isolate and pressure Israel while giving lip service to “peace”
Imitating Hizballah, the Palestinians have been involved in the daily killing of Israeli soldiers in the West Bank and Gaza using snipers, road bombs and gun battles involving the Palestinian police, the paramilitary group known as the Tanzim Hamas and Islamic Jihad. All the while they use their own youth as human shields and cynically reap a public relations bonanza in front of a sympathetic world press.
However, in contrast to the Hizballah in Lebanon, the Palestinians also have access to civilian targets inside Israel and the Jewish settlements in the territories. Pursuant to the Oslo agreement, Israel withdrew from Gaza and 40 percent of the West Bank including six major Palestinian cities, all of which are close to major Israeli cities and some of which are only several hundred meters away from Jewish population centers. Moreover, more than 150,000 settlers live alongside the Palestinian population in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza.
For the last several weeks, there have been numerous terrorist attacks directed toward settlements in the territories and against buses and cars traveling on the roads to and from them. Furthermore, terrorist attacks were mounted against targets inside Israel with firebombs being hurled at buses and cars in Jerusalem, shots being fired at the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo and car bombs being exploded in Hadera and Jerusalem, killing and wounding many Israelis.
While orchestrating this violence Arafat is continuing to talk to the Israelis and the world about a negotiated peace and promises cease fires which are always broken. To pressure the US to demand more concessions from Israel in new agreements, Arafat has been campaigning to reduce the US role in negotiations and for increased international involvement of other foreign powers including the UN, the European Union, Russia and some Arab countries. To isolate Israel, Arafat pressured Arab countries like Qatar, Oman, Tunisia and Morocco to cut all their diplomatic ties with Israel while the only two countries with peace agreements with Israel, Jordan and Egypt, have recalled their ambassadors.
What are Israel’s options?
There are two school of thought in Israel about the way to solve the conflict. Prime Minister Barak still believes that the only solution to the conflict is a diplomatic one. Others on the right, including myself, in consideration of Arafat’s long term strategy and goals, believe that the only solution is a military one. Two weeks ago, Barak proposed to the Palestinians a partial peace settlement in which Israel will recognize a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza after giving them additional land for territorial continuity, annex blocks of Jewish settlements to Israel and delay negotiations on Jerusalem and refugees for up to three years.
Of course, Palestinian officials rejected the offer saying that any accord must include all their demands. Prime Minister Barak explained his latest offer of concessions, which follows two months of premeditated violence, by saying that the “Israelis cannot rely on military might to solve the problem.” However, the Israeli army has not been allowed by the Israeli government to win the ongoing war and to destroy the terrorist infrastructure which has been created in the Palestinian Authority areas during the last seven years since the Oslo agreement.
Recognizing a Palestinian state without an agreement on the most contentious issues of the status of Jerusalem and the return of refugees will invite further Palestinian violence to pressure for future concessions. Recognizing a state in exchange for Arafat’s promises of cessation of violence and peaceful coexistence, naively ignores Arafat’s history.
During the last seven years as well as the last two months, Arafat has broken most of his promises under the Oslo agreement by failing to prevent violence, disarm that Hamas and Islamic Jihad arrest terrorists, confiscate illegal weapons and stop anti-Israel propaganda in the Palestinian media and school books. Moreover, Arafat has a long record of broken promises regarding cease fires and coexistence. In Jordan in the ‘70s, he agreed to 22 cease fires until he was finally banished by force by King Hussein, but only after he had dragged the whole Jordanian Kingdom into a bloody civil war. In Lebanon in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Arafat agreed to more than 70 cease fires in Lebanon during a decade of instigating a civil war between the Moslems and Christians, until Arafat and the PLO were driven out of Lebanon by Israel’s 1982 invasion.
Arafat has repeatedly proven that he is not a man of peace. Everywhere he has ruled he brought terror, destruction and instability. The Palestinian terror against Israel will never stop and inevitably will escalate in its intensity to include the shelling of Israeli cities and airports. Sooner or later Israel will need to reenter the Palestinian controlled areas and remove the Palestinian leadership as well as its military and terrorist forces as became necessary in Jordan and Lebanon. It is important that this be accomplished before the establishment of a Palestinian state. Invading a sovereign state which has had access and time to accumulate heavy arms including tanks, missiles and fighter planes would be a much bloodier fight and would invoke a stronger international outrage. At that point Israel will have to hope for the emergence of a new Palestinian leadership that desires peace as desperately as the Israeli people.