Oct 30 2001

Sharon’s plan despite Palestinian ceasefire commitments

Published by at 12:00 am under Articles,Palestinian politics

WELL-PROTECTED Israeli soldiers were surprised this week when they entered six Palestinian cities that there was no organized Palestinian resistance, as had been the case with earlier incursions. The Israeli military entered six Palestinian cities two days after gunmen assassinated a right-wing Israeli cabinet minister in an Israeli hotel built on expropriated Palestinian lands in East Jerusalem. Palestinians were also surprised to hear after a meeting of the supreme Palestinian military council of the decision that considers all military wings of Palestinian factions to be illegal. This Palestinian decision was followed by a series of arrests of Palestinian activists that has netted 30, mostly from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, as well as from Islamic groups. Sixty others are reported hiding from attempts to arrest them by the Palestinian security. Those arrested included a spokesman for the PFLP and a member of this organization’s politburo.

Spokespersons for the Palestinian National Authority attribute both these actions to the ceasefire decision made by the Palestinian leadership after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks against the United States. Yasser Abed Rabbo, the minister of information has insisted in public statements broadcast on local and satellite television stations in Arabic that the Palestinian decision is strategic and not tactical. He elaborated in detail the need to end what he called “illegal Palestinian militias”. Abed Rabbo and other senior PNA officials have insisted on the sensitivity of the situation and the need for a single security power to be in charge in the Palestinian areas.

This dramatic Palestinian turnaround has gone almost unnoticed as Israeli troops rolled into Bethlehem, Ramallah and other Palestinian cities. Diplomatic efforts by European and American officials have also gone unheeded. Israeli arrogance has reached the level where Ariel Sharon has chosen to ignore public calls by US officials to withdraw from these newly occupied areas.

For Sharon and half of his government, the events of Sept. 11 and the assassination of a Cabinet minister were opportunities to reverse Israeli withdrawals from populated Palestinian cities under the Oslo Agreement. When asked about the effect of the terrorists’ attacks on US-Israeli relations, former Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu told an American television reporter:”very good”. Only moments later did he realize what he said and tried to correct himself.

There is little doubt among many, including leading Israeli analysts, that Sharon’s incursion had been planned for some time and that he was only awaiting an excuse. It is ironic that in 1982 Sharon deceived Israelis and the world by saying that he only wanted to enter a 40-kilometre radius of south Lebanon, ending up besieging Beirut within days. At that time, Israel invaded Lebanon after an assassination attempt against an Israeli diplomat. This time, we are told that the latest Israeli incursion is temporary and is not meant to destroy the PNA. When his attempts to link Arafat with Ben Laden failed, he waited for another justification. The Palestinian ceasefire offer and the meeting with Shimon Peres after four attempts that were blocked by Sharon, produced a relative quiet that forced the Israeli army to begin reversing its crippling siege on three million Palestinians. But Israel’s agreement to the ceasefire apparently didn’t include their refraining from assassinating Palestinians. For three consecutive days after the ceasefire went into effect, Israel assassinated Palestinian activists. This is when the second largest PLO faction decided to avenge the assassination of its secretary general Mustafa Abu Ali.

This was the justification that Sharon had wanted.

For sure the Palestinian leadership has a responsibility to contribute to the American and Western desire for a quiet Middle East, in order to strengthen the international campaign against Afghanistan and Ben Laden’s Qaeda movement.

Palestinian leaders have a difficult balancing act. They must show that they are serious about their ceasefire, but they have to deal with a population one third of which is now under curfew imposed by Israeli tanks. In such situations, the Palestinians have neither the morale nor the physical authority to be able to do much while the tanks are at every corner. To ask Palestinians to refrain from resisting this latest occupation is akin to denying people their legitimate right to self-defense.

The problems in the Middle East are not restricted to Israeli tanks rolling in front of this street or outside this church or mosque. The underlying problem is the absolute need for comprehensive and serious negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis, based on international law and not the rule of the gun. A framework for a solution has been agreed upon internationally: Land-for-peace. Military dictates will not accomplish the required peace that will have to be based on an independent and viable Palestinian state alongside a peaceful Israel within recognized boundaries.

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