Middle East Troubles

Posted: May 20, 2001 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON--On May 6, the Israeli Navy intercepted a Lebanese ship headed for Gaza. It carried a full cargo of weapons, including Katyusha rockets and Strella anti-aircraft missiles. These are not weapons of protest. These are not weapons for demonstrations. These are weapons for all-out war. The Katyushas can reach the most densely populated parts of Israel. The Strellas can bring down airplanes, military or civilian. According to the ship's captain, two similar shipments had already made it through to Gaza. Arafat's war on Israel, begun eight months ago, is about to escalate dramatically. Arafat has released all Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists from his jails. Many of them are working in his security forces. His own Fatah movement sports a guerrilla army called the Tanzim whose specialty is drive-by shootings of Jewish motorists and shooting into Jewish neighborhoods that border on Palestinian territory. The next escalation will involve mortars. The Palestinians have been launching them from the sanctuary of their own territory in Gaza, both against Israeli settlements and against towns in Israel proper. They have now smuggled mortars into the West Bank. Soon the suburbs of Tel Aviv will be in range. Thus far Israel has responded by sending its tanks into Gaza to suppress the mortars--and then withdrawing. Palestinian spokesmen have denounced these cross-border Israeli raids. ``They're not only designed to blur (boundaries),'' said Nabil Shaath, Palestinian minister for international cooperation. ``They're designed to blur the whole prospect of peace.'' Boundaries? Peace? This would be comical if it were not so tragic. Israel gave Palestinians this territory under the Oslo peace accords in return for the solemn Palestinian pledge to renounce violence and to settle all outstanding disputes through negotiations. Last October, Arafat decided to tear up Oslo and start his guerrilla war against Israel; now he complains that according to the piece of paper he has torn up, his territory is inviolable. Even Hitler did not have the audacity to complain about Britain declaring war on him (after he invaded Poland) on the grounds that Britain had pledged peace at Munich. Why did Arafat start the war? The Palestinian Authority's various rationales are becoming baroque. First, violence ostensibly broke out because of Palestinian anger over Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount last Sept. 28. PA Communications Minister 'Imad al-Faluji thinks not. ``Whoever thinks that the Intifada broke out because of the despised Sharon's visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, is wrong ...'' he said in a speech to Palestinians in Lebanon. ``This Intifada was planned in advance, ever since President Arafat's return from the Camp David negotiations, where he turned the table upside down on President Clinton''--by rejecting Israel's peace proposal and thus incurring blame from the president of the United States for the failure of the talks. (Faluji, reportedly under pressure from Arafat, has subsequently denied that he said this. Unfortunately for Faluji, a similar statement of his at a Gaza symposium was reported in the PA-affiliated daily Al-Ayyam.) Recognizing that it is a little much to expect the world to believe that Sharon's visit spawned not one or two or three but 230 days of shooting, rioting, bombing and murder, the Palestinians adopted another tack. They're fighting, they now say, because of the expansion of settlements. That rationale--which has found its way into the report by the Mitchell Commission, set up to adjudicate the causes of the fighting--is equally absurd. At Camp David and then at Taba in the dying days of the Clinton presidency, Israel offered the Palestinians their own state and Israeli withdrawal from 95 percent of the disputed territories. The vast majority of settlements would have been uprooted. The remaining ones (grouped on a tiny 5 percent of the West Bank, an area smaller than one of Ted Turner's four Montana ranches) would revert to Israel. And Israel would give Palestine an equivalent 5 percent of its own territory to make up the difference. Result? A Palestinian state on land amounting to 100 percent of the West Bank--with no settlements, no Jews. Arafat turned that peace offer down. Yet now he pretends he is fighting to get rid of settlements. Why (BEG ITAL)is he fighting? Read the speech he gave May 15, ``Catastrophe Day," as the Palestinians commemorate the date of Israel's birth. He is fighting because the Jew-free Palestinian state is hardly his only goal. There will be no peace, he pledged, until the millions of Palestinians living abroad are returned to (BEG ITAL)Israel --and thus extinguish it as a Jewish state. Palestine first, then Israel. For decades the West assured Israel that its security depended on ``land for peace.'' Arafat, it turns out, is fighting for land (BEG ITAL)without peace.