Published in The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, after a bloody week in the beginning of March during which 27 Israelis were murdered, said that “the Palestinians must first be hit hard and suffer heavy losses as the only way to force them back to the negotiating table.” However, a partial military solution involving limited military actions is not the solution, and negotiating with Arafat is no longer an option.
Retaliatory actions that consist of bombing empty, symbolic Palestine Authority installations and Arafat headquarters, targeted killings of terrorists, short incursions into Palestinian refugee camps and cities in search of arms and terrorist suspects, the imposition of closures and roadblocks, building buffer zones, keeping Arafat in the territories and more police in Israeli cities will not end the now-daily terrorist attacks. This strategy will not succeed in pressuring Arafat to eliminate the terrorist attacks or de-legitimize him in the eyes of the world.
The only solution remaining is for the Israeli army to reenter the PA-controlled territories, recapture the West Bank and Gaza and bring about the total collapse of the PA and the removal and expulsion of Arafat and his terrorist forces. There are about 110,000 terrorists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These include 40,000 Palestinian “police,” which constitute the backbone of Arafat’s power; 60,000 members of Arafat’s Fatah militia known as the Tanzim, which include the terrorists of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades; and the nearly 10,000 terrorists of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
The recent success of the Israeli army’s military operations inside refugee camps, in which thousands of terrorists surrendered with little resistance and with few Israeli or Palestinian civilian casualties and little Arab outcry, should encourage the government to make the right political decision. Those who expected heavy resistance and house-to-house combat in a crowded, heavily populated area were surprised by the ease of the task. It reinforced those who believe the Israeli army has the ability to capture all of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip and bring about the total collapse of the PA in a very short time and with relatively few casualties, just as the American forces were able to do in Afghanistan against Al Queda and the Taliban. Arafat’s suicide bombers can only be effective when Israelis are “sitting ducks” in restaurants, malls, buses or checkpoints.
‘Cracks’ in society
Seventeen months ago Arafat rejected the generous concessions offered by then Prime Minister Ehud Barak and made a strategic decision to orchestrate a guerrilla war of attrition against Israel, imitating Hezbollah’s perceived success in forcing the Israeli army’s humiliating withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000. This was the first time that Israel unilaterally withdrew from Arab land without a peace agreement or cease-fire. Forcing a similar withdrawal is Arafat’s goal now. Arafat will never stop terrorizing Israel until he forces it to unilaterally withdraw from the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, without signing a final peace agreement or declaring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Arafat believes that he can achieve his goal by demoralizing and “breaking” Israeli society or by drawing international intervention.
Arafat believes that Israelis are weak and cannot tolerate sustained loss of life. The recent daily escalation in terrorist attacks is the direct result of Arafat’s observing the recent “cracks” in Israeli society. At the end of January, 250 reservists from front-line combat units put forth a petition in an Israeli newspaper declaring their refusal to serve in the West Bank and Gaza and urging the government to withdraw troops unilaterally. On Feb. 16, 10,000 people attended a Peace Now rally in Tel Aviv calling for unilateral separation. If Israel caves in, it would be a catalyst for terrorists, Israeli Arabs and the Arab states to further attack Israel.
To achieve his goals, Arafat no longer only harbors terrorists or refuses to rein them in, but is now ordering terrorist attacks. For the last three months, more than 90 percent of the terrorist attacks against Israel have been committed not by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but by organizations affiliated with Arafat’s Fatah political party and directly under the command and control of Arafat, including the Tanzim, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Arafat’s presidential guard, Force 17. Tanzim Leader Marwan Barghouti is in constant contract with and takes orders from Arafat.
But much worse, the PA is in possession of hundreds of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, Katyusha rocket launchers with a range of 12 miles that can reach Israel’s industrial and population centers, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, land mines, rifles, ammunition and explosives. Recently, Kassam 2 missiles were fired into Israeli towns, and a sophisticated explosive device destroyed an Israeli Merkava tank, considered to be the safest in the world, further weakening the country’s deterrent capabilities. Israel has found 30 tunnels between Egypt and Gaza, and in May 2001 and January 2002 were able to intercept two ships with tons of offensive weaponry headed to Gaza.
The Israeli army general staff’s assessment is that the type of weaponry found on both boats signifies the Palestinians’ intention, with Iranian and Hezbollah help, to escalate terror to unprecedented levels using missiles and rockets to attack population centers all over the country, including the Ben-Gurion Airport. Consequently, a unilateral separation with the erection of a fence or wall between will not stop terrorists but give them free movement inside their lands and free access to weapons.
During the last eight years, Arafat has repeatedly declared to the Arab media that the Oslo Agreement is the first step in implementing the 1974 PLO “phased plan,” a step-by-step approach to destroying Israel. He has repeatedly declared his vision of making the
Jews a religious minority in Palestine. Arafat’s doubletalk, incitement to violence and hatred of Israel has never stopped. While Arafat condemned suicide bombers as terrorists, called for a cease fire and coexistence to the Western media, he openly declared in Arabic to his people that “one martyr (e.g., a suicide bomber) in Jerusalem is worth 70 martyrs everywhere in the country” and that “a million martyrs should march on Jerusalem.” After last weekend’s Jerusalem and Netanya attacks, Arafat’s Voice of Palestine radio hailed the killings as “heroic martyrdom operations.” Arafat delivered a televised speech urging Palestinians “to sacrifice themselves as martyrs in a Jihad for Palestine.” Not surprisingly, in a recent poll in March more than 65 percent of Palestinians support the continuation of the violence and favored suicide attacks against Israelis.
Moreover, Arafat has a long record of broken promises regarding cease-fires and coexistence. After instigating civil wars in Jordan in the ‘70s and Lebanon in the ‘80s, he agreed to 22 and 70 cease-fires, respectively, until he and his PLO terrorists were driven out militarily, by King Hussein in the former case and by Israel in the latter.
Those who believe that the only solution to terrorism is political – who call for an end to the occupation and the recognition of a Palestinian state – forget that Prime Minister Barak offered to end occupation and allow the establishment of a Palestinian state with a capital in Jerusalem at Camp David in July 2000 and later at Taba in December.
Arafat was offered a sovereign Palestinian state in all of Gaza and 97 percent of Judea and Samaria and was offered an additional three percent of land now inside Israel as a safe passage between the West Bank and Gaza, the removal of all Gaza settlements, and more than 50 settlements in Judea and Samaria. He was offered a capital in the entire Arab area of East Jerusalem, including three-fourths of the Old City (except the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter). He was even offered sovereignty over the Temple Mount, the holiest site of the Jews. He was asked only to declare an end to the conflict and to forget about the so-called “right of return” of 3.5 million refugees into Israel that, if fulfilled, would destroy the state’s Jewish character. Arafat rejected these offers, never made a counteroffer and orchestrated the current violence.
The new Saudi Arabian plan – Israel gives up strategic assets in return for empty Arab promises – is another attempt to divide the Israeli people by reviving their illusions about a political solution to the conflict. It is offered as if the Barak offer never took place. The Saudis cynically use it to improve their battered post-9/11 image and drive a wedge between America and Israel.
Sharon’s strategy of limited military action in an effort to avoid escalation has come to symbolize Israel’s helplessness in the face of terrorism and allowed the left in Israel to convince themselves that this helplessness is evidence that there is no
military solution to the problem. Sharon’s attempt to maintain national unity with a government that displays unity about Arafat’s future failed to capitalize on the message of the post-9/11 world order that the price of supporting terrorism is regime change. Israeli society can no longer afford, psychologically and economically, to be sitting ducks for Palestinian terrorism. Palestinian terror against Israel will never stop and inevitably will escalate in intensity to include the shelling of Israeli cities and airports. Eventually, an Israeli prime minister will have to decide to remove the Palestinian leadership as well as its military and terrorist infrastructure. At that time, Israel could withdraw its forces, demilitarize the area and grant autonomy to the Palestinians with local control, as existed before the Oslo agreement. A Marshall Plan to rebuild their economy and remove them from refugee camps must be established. An educational system that advocates peace and tolerance must be instituted with the hope that in two generations a new leadership will emerge that desires peace as desperately as the Israeli people.
Israel has a window of opportunity of up to two years to destroy this terrorist infrastructure before the Iranian or the Iraqis develop their weapons of mass destruction, at which time Israel’s hands will be tied and its very survival will be at stake.