Israel Report

June 2001         

Arafat is the Problem

By Daniel Bloch
June, 03 2001

- Is the peace process with the Palestinians dead? After Friday night's horrific suicide bombing at Tel Aviv's Dolphinarium, it seems that the answer is very clear, and unfortunately yes! However, the Middle East is the area where simple logic does not always prevail. Therefore perhaps hope is not lost forever.

There is no doubt today, even among the most dovish observers, that the blame for the tragic impasse of today lies completely in the hands of one man only: Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. He is the one responsible for not fulfilling the commitments he undertook upon himself in the exchange of letters with prime minister Yitzhak Rabin (who is surely missed nowadays more than ever before) in 1993. Without ignoring the many Israeli mistakes, Arafat, who has the ultimate responsibility for not accepting a cease-fire and for not seriously fighting against terrorism, is now the major obstacle for ending the vicious cycle of bloodshed.

If there is any responsibility on the Israeli side it lies only in the lack of understanding that Arafat is the problem: He gave license to terror, he stopped any activity intended at least to curb violence and terrorism. He blocked all signs of pluralism and democracy in the Palestinian area, he created a dictatorial society without freedom of speech and created a society based on corruption which led to prosperity for few and misery for the vast majority of his people. He is second only to Osama Bin Laden in being a filthy rich terrorist.

The main problem is that his corruption is some times assisted, directly or indirectly, by Israel and by Israelis. The most notorious connection is the Jericho Casino. Even Israeli leaders, and many high-ranking members of our intelligence community, are blind to the reality in a way that reminds me of what happened here on the eve of the Yom Kippur War in 1973. The facts are crystal clear but they are captive of their past prognoses.

The Israeli response to the current acts of terrorism must be divided into three levels. First of all an end to the cease-fire, not for revenge or retaliation, but for deterrent and prevention. We do not intentionally kill innocent civilians. There were mistakes or accidents, when people were caught at the wrong place at the wrong time, but terror against terror is not our way. The terrorists themselves, their commanders and leaders, their headquarters and bases must not be immune from our actions. In our responses we must do our utmost to differentiate between the terrorists, their leaders and supporters, and those that are not involved in violence.

We should not try to physically eliminate Arafat, but we must stop resuscitating him and support his survival and that of his cronies.

We should limit his freedom of movement and try to disconnect the financial pipes that maintain his corrupted regime.

The second level must be defensive: We should erect barriers that will make crossing the lines from the Palestinian areas to our areas impossible, with a much higher visibility of our police and army on every road and crossing point. It was a tremendous error not to do it until now, but today we do not have any other choice. There is no guarantee for a full success. It is not a total bulletproof arrangement, but it could limit the possibility of penetration of terrorists into our areas.

The third level is political and diplomatic: We must show ourselves and the world at large that we still adhere to the principles of a peaceful solution. We have declared a unilateral cease-fire, and kept it for a while, although our gesture was not reciprocated. Nevertheless, we still want to maintain it, but we cannot refrain from action in answering Palestinian violent acts. We are ready to sit and talk if there is a willing partner. At this point we do not have a partner. We must recognize the fact that Arafat is the problem, and will never be the solution.

It is quite sad and pathetic to see that Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, former minister Yossi Beilin and others, still consider Arafat a partner. The sooner the leaders of our "peace camp" understand and face this gruesome fact of life, we might start finding more serious and realistic solutions to the conflict and willing partners to try and solve them without further bloodshed.

©2001 - Jerusalem Post

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