Reaching "Critical Mass" In Middle East

Part 2 -- Arafat's Killers Are Winning

by DEBKAfile

22 June 2002

The ordinary Israeli who wants to know why his government is incapable of keeping him and his family safe from Palestinian terror will not be told the real reason. The answer is that the Sharon-Ben Eliezer-Peres triumvirate share an interest in keeping its terror’s evil genius, Yasser Arafat, safe at his command post in Ramallah, each out of considerations of his own.

DEBKAfile uses the term “command post” advisedly. Arafat sits in his protected compound in Ramallah at the center of a web of aides and minions. Together they run the Palestinian suicide murder campaign against Israelis, rubbing their hands with glee over the Israeli government’s reprisals. As seen from Ramallah, the suicide campaign is a brilliant success.

Indeed, Arafat perceives the actions ordered by the Sharon government in retaliation for terror attacks as playing into his hands. He wants nothing more than for Israel to send Israeli troops back into Palestinian West Bank towns and erect its 215-mile defensive fence to keep the terrorists in populated Palestinian areas of the West Bank from entering Israel. He is looking forward to an Israeli government resolve to break up the Palestinian Authority and deport him together with his top aides.
Why? Because, contrary to the commonly accepted view, Arafat is not after a Palestinian state and has lost interest in the survival of a Palestinian Authority.

His goals have been honed down to two:
1. To go underground, like Osama bin Laden, and continue his terror campaign for the destruction of the state of Israel from secret hideouts.
2. Unlike the Palestinian people, Arafat nurtures a burning ambition to be counted part of the world Islamic jihad that aims to lay the United States to waste - or at least injure it badly enough to knock it off its perch as the world’s No. 1 superpower. That position will then be free for appropriation by the international Islamic nation.

Arafat believes fervently that by joining this subversive jihad, he will purchase a lead role in the Islamic nation’s ruling institutions after America is vanquished.

Why do Sharon, Peres and Ben Eliezer close their eyes to Arafat’s rationale?

Sharon has three reasons:
A. It is part of his commitment to keep his policies attuned with those of the Bush administration. Sharon believes that the processes ordered for the region by Washington will provide him with his opportunity for liquidating Arafat together with the prospects of independent Palestinian statehood.

The only difficulty with this strategy is that the Bush policies have gone awry. Even after the Afghan campaign, America has not been able to overcome the threat posed by Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network of Islamic terror. By the same token, the latest Israeli government decision to send Israeli troops to retake Palestinian areas after each terror attack will not vanquish the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the main terrorist arm of Arafat’s Fatah.

B. He keeps his triumvirate and his national unity government intact and disarms his enemies in the far left. Labor leaders Shimon Peres and Binyamin Ben Eliezer will not leave their key positions as foreign and defense ministers in a hurry, so long as Arafat is not given the final push. Both depend on the goodwill of Washington for staying in office. The glue binding the three men is therefore much stronger than the occasional squabbles that are blown out of proportion by the media. All their arguments end in full accord.

C. His hands are tied by economic restraints. Sharon’s chef de bureau, Dov Weissglass, admitted in a recent press interview that he has business contacts with Arafat’s personal financial adviser, Mohammed Rashid, and he hopes those contacts will open up a useful diplomatic channel to Arafat. It is hard to see how, when a senior prime minister’s aide has done business with the leading financial backer of Palestinian terror, the prime minister can at the same time wage a resolute fight to the finish against that same terror.

Peres has two reasons:
A. So closely has the foreign minister’s career in the last decade approximated that of Yasser Arafat, that the Palestinian leader’s extinction would signal his own eclipse as well. The formidable deceit and disinformation system that has accompanied the Oslo accords process in the last eight years would be exposed.

As illustrations, DEBKAfile brings to light three little-known facts:
1) When Arafat flew to Washington to join President Clinton, the late Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and Peres for the signing ceremony of the Oslo Accords, he used an airplane placed at his disposal by Saddam Hussein. The other signatories pretended not to notice.

2) On his way back from the signing ceremony, Arafat touched down in Cairo and declared: ”We are all hastening to become martyrs.” Arafat customarily uses martyrs in the sense of suicide fighters. For the Israeli public, this declaration was mistranslated then and ever since – “projects” instead of “martyrs” – to obfuscate Arafat’s real motives, although he himself has never concealed them.

Uninterested in the interests of the big powers, the region or even the Palestinians, Arafat has always been moved single-mindedly by his ambition to destroy Israel by violence.

During the years that Israel abided by the Oslo accord and gave up one piece of land after another, Arafat moved from words to deeds. He provided his Fatah group with its own suicide terrorist arm, the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which has since rivaled even the Islamic extremist Hamas and Jihad Islami in the manufacture of human bombs.

For eight years, one Israeli government after another, together with America and Europe, kept up the pretence of a successful peace process, while Arafat shaped the most effective terrorist machine ever seen. No one can complain of ignorance when minutes after signing the Oslo peace agreements, Arafat announced his intentions to anyone who would listen.

The non-listeners included the late Yizhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, who counted on the words somehow going unnoticed.

Today, Israelis are paying the price of their leaders’ deliberate inattentiveness to the full.

Binyamin Eliezer has one reason, and that is to hold on to his jobs as defense minister and Labor party leader. His handshake with Sharon provides each the political backing he needs. If the Sharon government falls, so too do Ben Eliezer and his party.

Therefore, the three members of the triumvirate are mutually dependent on each other for their political survival. If Sharon lays a finger on Arafat, he loses his two allies and his government collapses. All three share an interest in the Palestinian leader remaining at his command post in Ramallah to protect their alliance and perpetuate their rule, as well as the long-term goodwill of Washington.

Even the hawkish right wing ministers, aware of this reality, are shy of urging Arafat’s liquidation – proposing only that he and his terror chiefs in the Palestinian Authority be expelled.

At the same time, all three leaders are being forced to face down mounting criticism from a population that can take only so much. The most uncomfortable question confronting them from the electorate is this: We voted for Sharon 18 months ago because he promised us security. He has not delivered. The only individual to whom Sharon has given life insurance is Yasser Arafat.
Sharon and his government must either come up with a convincing reply to this question, or find a way to extinguish the flames of terror consuming the country. Sending in more troops and tanks and grabbing Palestinian land will not hold back Arafat’s bus bombers and suicide killers, any more than will electronic fences.

The affliction can only be cured at source.

Two ways are self-evident:

One, to stop holding Arafat’s personal safety sacrosanct and separate him from his terror machine.

The other is to cut him off from the financial resources oiling the wheels of terror.