The Palestinian suicide bombing that shattered lives and storefronts in downtown Jerusalem on Thursday also made a shambles of any coherent Israeli and US policy toward Yasser Arafat. The aftershock of the attack would be even greater where it not for an Israeli court's gag order, issued at the urging of the prime minister's office, banning full DEBKAfilereporting on the atrocity.
What DEBKAfile can report is the account offered by the Jerusalem police: A suicide bomber killed three people and wounded 87 others when he struck Jerusalem's central shopping district on an overcast afternoon, yards from a dozen deadly terrorist atrocities in the past year. The horror was unimaginable - even in a city that has lost count of the atrocities visited upon it by Palestinian terrorists. Severed heads rolled down the sidewalks of King George Street, which was littered with limbs. Dozens of wounded writhed in agony from the nails and screws that spewed from the bomber's explosives belt.
The attack spelled the failure of moves by US President George Bush, envoy Anthony Zinni, vice president Dick Cheney and Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon to come to terms with Arafat. The failure was two-fold. As DEBKAfilehas written many times, Arafat simply does not want peace.
He also does not want the ceasefire work plan drawn up by CIA director George Tenet, nor the truce-to-talks blueprint charted by an international panel led by former US senator George Mitchell.
The Palestinian leader seeks the destruction of the state of Israel and he will use any means or trick to achieve his goal.
Just five days ago, Arafat told the Americans and Israelis that his security forces had arrested a potential suicide bomber, Mohammed Hashaika, in the village of Taluza near the West Bank town of Nablus. Arafat, out to prove to the Americans he was serious about fighting terror, asked them to press Israel for permission to transfer the terrorist from Nablus to Ramallah so that his security forces could keep a closer eye on him. Israel assented - but the young Palestinian didn't spend a single hour in Ramallah prison.
Instead, he was taken straight to the headquarters of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades – a force belonging to Arafat's Fatah faction – where officers loyal to Colonel Tawfik Tirawi, chief of the Preventive Security agency and the Palestinian intelligence officer closest to Arafat, handed him an explosives belt. After showing Hashaika how to use it, they sent him on his way to downtown Jerusalem to carry out the attack.
The bombing marked the first time in his 40 years of waging terrorism that Arafat has been caught red-handed. He personally arranged for the transfer of the suicide terrorist to Ramallah – and he knew exactly what for.
Arafat was following a familiar, bloodthirsty pattern. Israel and the United States have always taken pains to conceal the fact that, back in 1985, he had been in direct radio contact with Mahmoud Abbas after the Palestinian terrorist hijacked the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro in the Mediterranean. Every word Arafat said was recorded by Israeli and Egyptian intelligence. Abbas chose one passenger, a wheelchair-bound elderly American Jew named Leon Klinghoffer, as a hostage."What should I do with him,"Abbas asked Arafat."Throw him into the sea,"Arafat answered.
Abbas carried out his order and Klinghoffer died. History is repeating itself now. Arafat, with Israeli help, pulled the wool over the eyes of US leaders, such as President Clinton. Only now, he has trapped the entire state of Israel in a wheelchair, which he is in the process of dumping in the sea.
He craftily exploited the god services of the current US president's personal ceasefire envoy to dispatch a suicide bomber into the heart of Jerusalem, at a time when the president himself is engaged in a global war on terror.
But the United States isn't the only gullible party. Meet the people of Israel, who have been sitting quietly for 18 months, waiting to be slaughtered at the hands of Palestinian terrorists in their homes, schools, stores and markets.
Wave after wave of suicide attackers have struck and some Israeli voices still call on the Israeli government and army to exercise restraint. The bombers are not alien invaders from outer space, but part of a political entity sponsored by the strongest democracy in the world and civilized European countries.
Sharon, the United States and Europe can take whatever action the want from now on, but it won't matter. On Thursday, March 21, 2002, something snapped and Israelis began to grasp for the first time they are being pitched unresisting into the sea. This new awareness will have far-reaching consequences in Israel and throughout the Middle East.