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
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
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
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.