Reacting to the IAF's strike in Gaza that took out Hamas terrorist Ismail Abu Shanab yesterday afternoon, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas minced no words. The man who had cautiously explained Tuesday that the massacre of children and their parents traveling on a bus on their way home from the Western Wall "did not serve the national interests" of the Palestinians, referred to the killing of Shanab, a murderer, as "a heinous crime."
PA spokesmen were quick to add that, as a result of Israel taking out a military target, the PA would take no action against its brothers in Hamas a genocidal organization dedicated to the physical destruction of the Jewish state and its citizenry.
In responding in this manner to the IAF's action, Abbas was nothing if not revealing. Abbas is not Israel's partner in peace. Abbas is Hamas's partner in war. That is, he is an enemy of the State of Israel.
Abbas's security chief, Muhammad Dahlan, did not even need the strike on Shanab to make this point clear. On Wednesday, he sent his spokesman out to explain what his policies would be toward Hamas following its massacre of 20 Israelis. The spokesman explained that Israel was to blame for the situation, because Israel had violated the hudna (cease-fire). At the same time, he explained, Palestinian factions (as he euphemistically referred to Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah), were taking provocative actions that were unhelpful. Still, Israel was first and foremost to blame.
Later in the day the PA announced, after theatrical debates in Gaza and further dramatic rumination in Ramallah, that it was going to take action against "the factions" that were harming the PA's national interest.
What actions would they take? Well, they decided that Islamic Jihad and Hamas spokesmen wouldn't be allowed to give interviews on television anymore. Unfortunately, al-Jazeera apparently didn't hear about the stunning move, since Thursday the station interviewed Islamic Jihad leader Muhammad al-Hindi on its morning broadcast. Then, too, the PA decided that no one outside of its own CIA-trained militias would be allowed to walk around in public with weapons.
The one move that the Abbas-Dahlan (Arafat) junta has made since ascending to international celebrity is the PA's sponsorship of the hudna. Over the past two months, every time that they were asked about their moves to dismantle the Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah terror organizations, they pointed to the hudna and said that this was all that was necessary to bring peace. Initially, Israel decried the hudna as a farce. But once Hamas and its friends in Islamic Jihad and the PA announced its implementation six weeks ago, the government immediately began to play ball.
The media also got taken in by the hudna. The day after 20 Israeli children and their parents were disemboweled and scorched in Jerusalem, the question that dominated the papers was: Is the hudna over? Even after Hamas announced yesterday the hudna was off, Israeli commentators continued to ask whether Hamas was serious about "restarting" its terrorist slaughter.
In none of these discussions was mention ever made of what the hudna actually was. Since it was declared, it has been taken for granted that the hudna is a good thing for Israel, something that must be defended and preserved. Nothing could be further from the truth.
What, really, was this hudna? The hudna was a plan that was concocted by Egypt, the EU, the PA, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad. Its declared purpose was to allow terrorist organizations to flourish, operate, and grow unmolested by IDF counterterror operations. The hudna was also geared toward enabling Abbas to continue to exact concessions from Israel, including statehood, without its ever lifting a finger against terrorist groups. That is, the hudna aimed to establish a Palestinian terrorist state run jointly by the PA, Hamas, Fatah, and Islamic Jihad under the tutelage of Egypt and the sponsorship of the EU.
The hudna's architects never claimed that it involved a complete cessation of terrorist operations against Israel. Because of this, it is not at all strange that, after the Jerusalem massacre both Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who jointly claimed credit for murdering Jewish babies and parents, announced that they would continue to adhere to their hudna. There is no contradiction between attacks like the bus bombing and the hudna. The only side whose actions are constrained by the hudna is Israel.
This constraint on Israel's operations, of course is a decade old. Last Thursday I found myself engaged in conversation with a young IDF officer. A commander in one of the IDF's elite counterterror units, the officer contrasted the goal of the IDF with the goal of the US army in Iraq. "They are there to win," he said of the US army. "We are not supposed to win. Our goal is just to survive," he told me.
Who can blame this 22-year-old officer for thinking this way? Since he was 12 years old his government has abandoned the notion of victory, let alone the provision of physical security to the citizens of the State of Israel as a national goal. Since the onset of the Oslo process, the policy of the governments of Israel has been to transfer responsibility for the security of Israelis to our sworn enemy Yasser Arafat and his PA and his strategic partners Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Fatah.
This policy, which was completely discredited three years ago with the collapse of the Camp David summit, has been maintained and upheld by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in spite of the fact that he was twice elected by a landslide for the direct purpose of reinstating Israel's security that is, victory over our enemies as the goal of his government. The price of this policy has been steep. Over 400 Israelis were murdered from 1993-2000 and another 900 have been murdered since then.
This young officer fought with his men in Operation Defensive Shield last year. In the build-up to the offensive, senior IDF commanders told the soldiers and officers that they were going in to destroy the terrorists and would emerge victorious. The energy and excitement of the men, joined by an army of reservists, was palpable and real. For the first time, after a year and a half of sitting by and watching those they are charged with protecting being slaughtered, the army was finally receiving the order to do its job. And yet within a month they were told to move out. For the past 18 months, as they man their outposts and roadblocks, they stand by and watch the terrorists rebuild their strength and carry out still more massacres. In spite of what they accomplished in April 2002, they are told by their political leaders that their work is insignificant, because "there is no military solution." Israel cannot win.
Thus, even as Tuesday's massacre is described by the government as a "strategic attack," the response so far has only been tactical in nature. Even as Sharon refers to the PA's rhetoric as "a web of lies" he continues to finance it. Even as Abbas and Dahlan continue to make a mockery of Israel's demand that they destroy Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Sharon continues to pretend that Israel's real enemy the PA itself is his partner in peace negotiations.
It must be wonderful to be Abbas and Dahlan and Arafat. They can stand before the world and be embraced as peacemakers while making war on Israel. No matter what they do, no matter what atrocities they enable or conduct, they will never be blamed. Patience with them will never run out.
Israel's military successes during Defensive Shield and even the successful operations undertaken yesterday in Nablus, Jenin, and Ramallah make clear that if our leaders would just muster up the will to win, our armed forces will deliver the victory.
A decision to kill, deport, or arrest Arafat and try him for crimes against humanity in an Israeli court of law would be an immediate catalyst for a military operation that would in fact bring this country victory and the security that would ensue. Why is this? Because the only way to win a war is to identify who the enemy is. After 10 years of lying to ourselves, the blood on the streets of our capital city calls out the truth. Hamas and Islamic Jihad could never operate if it weren't for the PA and Arafat and his new straw men Abbas and Dahlan. The longer our leaders dither and deceive us, the longer our army officers will believe that their work is meaningless and the longer our lives will be at the mercy of our enemies.
Our future lies in the hands of our leaders. Victory is the only option. What will it take for them to find the will to lead us to it?
©2003 - Jerusalem Post