BY AHARON FRIEDMAN
Israel’s current military operations are necessary in order to put an end to the terror campaign it has faced these last twenty months. If the international calls for Israel to cease its military operations succeed, Israel’s citizens will pay a heavy price, as the major attacks against Israeli population centers by Palestinian terrorists will resume. Calls for Israeli restraint and a cease-fire between it and the Palestinian Authority are the equivalent of demanding a cease-fire between the United States and al-Qaeda following the World Trade Center attacks.
During March alone, over 130 Israelis were killed, most of them in barbaric bombings perpetrated by young Palestinians who blow themselves up attempting to kill the maximum number of Israeli civilians. Given Israel’s tiny population, this number is proportionately higher than the number of Americans killed in the World Trade Center attacks.
The spate of attacks occurred precisely during a mission by U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni to broker a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians because Israel had stepped down its military operations in the areas controlled by the PA during Zinni’s visit as a confidence-building measure toward the Palestinians. The same series of events happened during Zinni’s previous missions to the area. Whenever Israel steps down its military operations against the perpetrators of terrorism as a good faith measure to induce Arafat to agree to a ceasefire, it is rewarded with increased terrorism.
Despite the efforts of General Zinni, Arafat has refused to transfer wanted terrorists to Israel, as required by the Oslo Accords, or even to put them in prison himself. The few terrorists actually jailed have been released by Arafat shortly thereafter. Some have been kept in jail only to protect them from Israel while they continue to coordinate terror attacks, even constructing explosive belts for suicide bombers from their jail cells. Many of the suicide bombers were actually on lists of terrorists to be jailed submitted by Israel to Arafat. But Arafat is not merely sitting passively and refusing to implement his obligations under the agreements he has signed requiring him to fight terrorism. Arafat’s lieutenants have boasted that Arafat himself is responsible for the campaign of violence against Israel that started in September of 2000. The majority of the attacks against Israel in recent months have been perpetrated by Arafat’s own Fatah faction of the PLO, organized in cells led by the chiefs of the PA security apparatus serving in their capacity as members of the PLO.
Documents recently uncovered by Israel in Ramallah show that Arafat himself has signed off on bills with detailed accounts explaining the costs entailed in building bombs for the suicide terrorists. For the past week and a half, Israel has been engaged in its most extensive operations yet in the areas under PA control. Israel has captured many terrorists, a host of weapons and factories used to construct explosive belts, primitive mortars (too inaccurate to be used against military targets, but ideal for use against population centers) and other instruments of terrorism. The terrorist leaders, including Arafat’s top lieutenants, have been too busy worrying about their own safety to concentrate on launching major attacks against Israeli civilians.
Halting Israel’s campaign now, instead of leading to a ceasefire, would just enable Arafat to declare victory and launch more attacks. Time and time again over the last few months, Israeli military action against terrorism has been halted so that Arafat could be given just one more chance to implement a ceasefire. But he never has, and hundreds of Israeli civilians have been slaughtered as a result. Instead, Arafat has continued to build up his infrastructure of terror, using official PA television to incite young Palestinians to slaughter Jews. In recent months Arafat has himself repeatedly called for suicide attacks.
The terror will stop only if the Israeli Defense Force permanently incapacitates the network that enables the bombers to carry out their attacks, arresting terrorists, collecting their automatic weapons and destroying the factories used to construct explosive belts. To do this while trying to keep Palestinian civilian casualties to a minimum will take some time. Halting the campaign now and forcing Israel to make concessions to Arafat would show that utilizing terror pays diplomatic dividends. Israel must be granted the right to protect its citizens — as is every other nation — by wiping out Arafat’s infrastructure of terrorism.