Has Sharon Missed His Moment of Truth?

Israel’s inner security cabinet meeting Sunday afternoon, February 17, faced the bald option between going to war proper against Arafat and his Palestinian Authority or hold off again and live with a savagely spiraling casualty toll – 14 Israelis dead in the last two weeks.
The cabinet meeting was a formality. debkafile‘s military sources reveal that Sharon is considering a telephone call to US President George W. Bush tonight, to describe the vicious spiral in which Israel is trapped and ask to be released from the pledges he gave him in the White House on February 7. The foremost of those pledges was to refrain from harming Yasser Arafat or Palestinian civilians until the United States launches its offensive against Iraq. The prime minister will explain that Israel can no longer endure the rising tempo and ferocity of Palestinian attacks; his government will not survive if it continues to stand by while Arafat is exploiting to the hilt the grace period he has won before the US Iraq offensive.
Insistent demands for an all-out offensive to destroy Arafat’s terror infrastructure are coming from almost every quarter of the country as the Palestinians upgrade their tools of war and methods of operation, focusing both on military targets and civilians.
debkafile‘s military sources report that Israelis are not alone; senior Palestinian factions have also signaled a desperate SOS, warning Israel to take drastic action to quell the violence before it is too late to stave off a terrible disaster – confirming our reports in recent weeks.
Yet Sunday, Sharon showed himself incapable of cutting through to a clear decision.
Again, he procrastinated, postponing action on how to stem Palestinian violence to “later in the week”.
While the Israeli government dithers, the Palestinians could not be clearer about their objectives.
Arafat is activating his two most effective terrorist masters, Muhamed Dahlan, the Palestinian Authority’s chief security officer in the Gaza Strip and Tawfiq Tirawi, West Bank General Intelligence chief the West Bank. While Tirawi runs the Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, Dahlan heads its Gazan equivalent, the Saladin Brigades, the military wing of the “Popular Resistance Committees”, in which the Fatah-Tanzim, Popular Front, Hamas and Jihad Islami are grouped.
Tirawi is Arafat’s liaison man with Saddam Hussein’s military intelligence, whereas Dahlan is his channel to the Iran-backed Hizballah and al Qaeda contingents in Lebanon.
Between them, Arafat, Dahlan and Tirawi have parlayed the uprising against Israel into the positions of top dogs of the Muslim terror movement. They have brought together the terrorist groups sponsored by Iraq, Iran, al Qaeda and the Palestinians for a do-or-die confrontation against Israel.
This confrontation accords with the interests of both Tehran and Baghdad, as a vehicle for distancing the threat of an American offensive from their borders.
The Israeli prime minister is dodging the issue facing him: If the IDF fails to smash the Arafat’s war machine, it will face the advancing forces of al Aqsa Brigades, the Saladin Brigades, the Hizballah, Iraq and al Qaeda combined – and a constantly rising level of bloodshed. The only Palestinian forces still in communication with Israel will be obliterated. No rational Palestinian voice will survive to stem the red tide.
Israel has been racked by relentless terror for 17 months. If Sharon gets up the courage for total war, it will have to make a supreme effort to gather all its military, economic and emotional resources to achieve victory. What has weakened the country most of all has been a government that speaks in two voices: one voice says that Israel will have to sit down and talk peace with the Palestinian leader at some point, and the sooner the better. The other voice declares this a pipedream – not because of Sharon, but because of Arafat.
The motto on his escutcheon and that of his backers and followers is “With blood and fire, we shall redeem Palestine!”
Arafat is not fighting Israel to improve his bargaining position or win a place of honor in world history. Even if the Oslo faction on Israel’s political left forces the government to sign the most generous peace accord imaginable meeting every last Palestinian condition, Arafat will fight on. He makes no secret of his fidelity to the Prophet Mohammed’s precepts.
When Mohammed could not overcome the Jews of Qureish in the year 628, he signed the Hudiabiya Accords with them – notwithstanding his holy war, explaining to his followers that he would honor his peace pledge only until such time as his army was strong enough to resume the jihad.
That is exactly what the Palestinian leader did before the ink was dry on the 1993 Oslo Accords, frankly admitting as much in Cairo on his way back from the ceremonial signing in the White House. To merit a place of honor in Arab-Muslim history, he knows what he needs to do: to vanquish the Jews or die in the attempt.

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