Arafat Lands on Feet, Plots More Terror

The members of the Palestinian Legislative Assembly ought to have remembered when they set about forcing a showdown with Yasser Arafat that he relishes the challenge of turning setbacks into victories. Just before the hitherto tame lawmakers forced a vote of no confidence in his 21-man cabinet Wednesday, September 11, he instructed the ministers to resign, thereby sidestepping the vote and defeating its purpose. The largely corrupt and inefficient cabinet stays on as a caretaker until a general election, exactly as he wanted. In another maneuver to blunt the opposition, Arafat fixed January 20 as election day. He has no more intention of letting a free election go forward than he has of appointing a new government in two weeks, which he also pledged.
The session therefore ended with Arafat and his chosen administration safe at the helm, having defeated a concerted attempt to oust them both. He will not be satisfied with winning this round; at the right moment, he will seek to punish the disobedient legislature by dissolving it and replacing the Palestinian Authority with the terrorist coalition that put him in power, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the PLO.
But for once, his opponents feel strong enough to fight back. Israel’s military intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeevi pointed out that the fact that 51of the 85 members present demanded reforms in the Palestinian ruling body was an earthquake. Since President Bush’s landmark speech in June and Israel’s unfolding military operations from the spring, the Palestinians are being forced into the profound realization that they have lost out in their confrontation with Israel.
The final word in the standoff will depend largely on the progress of the US campaign against Baghdad. But Arafat shows no sign of throwing in the sponge. He exploited the legislative assembly forum and his keynote address to get a number of messages across, employing his usual stratagem of double meanings.
Quoted far and wide as offering a truce and goodwill, he used the occasion to issue a completely different message. His Koran quotation, “The downtrodden of the world will inherit the earth and rule it alone”, conveyed to the Palestinians an assurance that they would wrest the entire country from the Jews and become its sole masters. Realization of this assurance would give the Palestinians an even greater reward than the complete repatriation of every Palestinian refugee from the 1948 war – as demanded in the “right of return”. It would be tantamount to Israel’s total extinction, the extremist Lebanese Hizballah’s unconditional demand for peace.
Indeed, the verse Arafat quoted is the keystone of the Hizballah’s belief system. “The downtrodden of the world”, once the catchword of the legendary HIzballah leader, Mussa Sadr, is the favorite phrase of its fiery secretary general Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, who succeeded in hounding the Israeli army out of its buffer zone in south Lebanon in May 2001 and vowed never to rest until the Jews were expelled from the whole of Palestine.
Nasrallah has now hit on Ajar, the village that straddles the Israel-Lebanese border, all of whose inhabitants choose to remain Israeli citizens, as his next trouble spot. And Arafat is backing this most fervent anti-Israel Arab leader to the hilt. In his opening speech to the legislative assembly, Arafat also made a point of endorsing the Hizballah’s unique interpretation of UN Security Council Resolution 425, which confirmed the final location of Lebanese-Israeli border. The Lebanese group claims that, to comply with the resolution, Israel must also evacuate the Shaaba Farms and Ajar.
All these references add up to a clear signal from Arafat to the Palestinians, Nasrallah and the Arab world, in a language they understand: Do not heed the honeyed words of peace – they were for foreign consumption – but his real message: He has not budged by a hair’s breadth from his goal of wiping out the state of Israel and gaining the entire land for the Palestinian people, just as the Hizballah’s followers will gain the Shaaba Farms and Ajar.
This message comes with a vow to keep up the war against Israel. Israeli military and intelligence tacticians, au fait with Arafat’s preparations, are bracing for the next terrorist onslaught, except that they are no longer referring to a terror campaign, but the next phase of the Israel-Palestinian war. The cue to launch this phase is expected to come from Baghdad – not Ramallah. They also believe Arafat is already deep into his preparations, which debkafile‘s sources report focus on three areas of activity:
1. The reconstitution of the damaged terror cells of Arafat’s own al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Force 17 and the Fatah, retraining them to take on full-scale Hizballah-style guerrilla warfare against the pervasive Israel troop control of Palestinian towns and their environs. These tactics will emphasize remote-controlled roadside explosives against military targets, ambushes, abductions of soldiers, snipers and road mines.
2. Upon a signal from Baghdad, Arafat will order the hidden Palestinian arms stores opened to let loose with missiles, light artillery, mortars, anti-tank and anti-air weapons, mines and bombs against the IDF, West Bank and Gaza Strip Israeli communities and key road junctions inside Israel.
3. This is an area about which Israel’s military planners and intelligence are the least informed. They known that in the last six months, the Hizballah and Iraqi military intelligence have sneaked explosives experts into the West Bank, some of them belonging to al Qaeda, and the makings of booby-trapped cars and bomb belts loaded with chemical substances. There have also been reports, some coming from American and Jordanian sources, of Iraqi agents smuggling into the territory materials for biological warfare – most likely smallpox virus and anthrax. Some sources also speak of radioactive materials and nerve gas.
The former UN chief nuclear arms inspector in Iraq, David Kay, raised the possibility earlier this week of the Iraqi ruler enlisting volunteers in Palestinian refugee camps to act as suicidal smallpox carriers and infect hundreds of Israelis, in retaliation for an American assault on his regime.
For this type of warfare, Saddam has no need of missiles, air fighters or kamikaze pilots – only Yasser Arafat. Thus empowered, the Palestinian leader is convinced he will prevail in any power play his rivals and opponents launch against him.

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