by DEBKAfile, 20 January 2002

"Since the Israeli army’s massive takeover of the Palestinian town of Tulkarm on the West Bank before dawn Monday, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has, according to DEBKAfile’s military sources, advanced the timetable for his planned Waterloo, the battle he sees as his last heroic stand. Confined to Ramallah since December 3, Arafat said to his intimates a few days ago words to the effect that: We are all in rapid motion towards laying down our lives in the sacred cause.

The expression he used was not contemporary; it came from the old Muslim Hadith tradition. One feature of the Intifada Arafat embarked on 15 months ago is his increasing resort to fundamentalist modes of speech and thought.

Our sources take his words to mean that he is ready for a final showdown with Israel, barring only the time and venue. Once they are decided, he will order the secret Palestinian arsenals opened up and the heavy weapons he has stockpiled in the Gaza Strip and West Bank brought out for battle. He is known to have hidden stores of Qasem-1 and Qasem-2 rockets, mortars and anti-tank and anti-air missiles. They will be used for attacks on Israeli population centers and setting Israeli tanks and helicopters on fire. Arafat will no doubt follow Osama bin Laden’s example and instruct his men never to surrender but fight to the death. It is far from sure that every last Palestinian will obey this directive. Some may prefer to lay down arms and give themselves up.

The Israeli army command has developed responses to the various possible Palestinian scenarios, which may include instructions from Arafat to a Palestinian force to carry out a suicidal attempt to capture an Israeli town or village, or a part of one. This force could scarcely hope to survive.

His last diplomatic act before all is lost is likely to be a dramatic last-hope appeal from the battlefield to Arab, American and European rulers to intervene to save the Palestinian people. If this comes off, the Palestinian leader will have won the final victory of turning the conflict over to an international authority.

Even if his European backers let him down, Saddam Hussein and the Hizballah may ride to the rescue. They could fire their missiles against Israeli targets, thereby opening a second front and expanding Arafat’s fight to an Arab war proper.

Arafat’s last gamble has been decided, all except for the timing, location and sequence. By using the word masha’ri - meaning rapid - he sends a strong signal that he does not intend to let the grass grow under his feet.
There is no doubt that the stranglehold imposed on him by Ariel Sharon is tightening. It is given an additional tug every time a Palestinian gunman goes on a terror spree.

Monday, the large force of Israeli tanks, APCs, paratroops, infantry and helicopters pushing into Tulkarem took over a whole Palestinian town for the first time. It clamped down a curfew and moved from house to house to detain suspects, facing very little resistance.

The terrorist who murdered 6 Israelis celebrating a Bat Mitzva in Hadera last Thursday, January 17, was a member of the Tulkarm Tanzim, a militia run by Yasser Arafat’s Fatah. The Tanzim has taken the lead in terror operations since the capture of the Palestinian arms smuggling boat on January 3.

Since the Hadera outrage, warnings have proliferated of impending terrorist strikes planned for Israeli population centers. Israel has reacted with blockades of all four north West Bank Palestinian towns, Nablus, Jenin and Qalqilya, as well as Tulkarm. It has also bombed the government building in Tulkarm, dynamited the Voice of Palestinian building and tightened the military grip on Ramallah. IDF tanks have moved to within 50 meters of the headquarters in which Arafat has been confined since December 3, sparking some clashes and demonstrations.
Arafat’s own people will not be able to ignore the snub administered their leader by the former US president Bill Clinton, architect of the 1993 Oslo peace framework accords, who welcomed Yasser Arafat to the White House and Camp David. In Israel to receive an honorary doctorate from TelAvivUniversity, Clinton will not be calling on Arafat and has publicly accused him of missing a golden opportunity in 2000. He was referring to the Camp David meeting at which Arafat turned down Ehud Barak’s proposals, the most magnanimous offer Israel has ever made the Palestinians. Instead he prepared the Intifada.

Clinton might also accuse himself of not understanding the nature of terrorism. The Washington Post has called his failure to do away with Osama bin Laden, despite the opportunities to do so found by US intelligence, the most serious lapse of his presidency.

DEBKAfile terrorism analysts note that Clinton, in the address he is taking round the lecture circuit, admits he cannot understand why Muslims are so anti-American when he, as president, went to war in Kosovo for the sake of the poverty-stricken Muslim farmers of the Balkans. The result he seems to have missed: The Muslim farmers are as poor as ever, but the Albanian mafia, al Qaeda’s operational arm in the Balkans and Europe, has prospered.

In the same way, Arafat’s bloody career – and all the aid poured into his regime – will not do the hundreds of thousands of needy Palestinians the slightest bit of good, or compensate them for everything the Intifada has cost them."