Israel Government Fights Terror Euphemism

With another 10 Israelis dead and 22 still in hospital from the latest Palestinian terror outrage Wednesday, the Israeli defense cabinet’s ruling in a special session that the Palestinian Authority is “no longer relevant to the State of Israel” sounds feeble, bureaucratic and evasive. The very phrasing will intensify popular pressure on the Sharon government to go all the way against Yasser Arafat and his regime. Demonstrations are scheduled to demand the resignation from the government of right-wing ministers, unless Yasser Arafat is expelled and the West Bank re-occupied without further delay
Bitter parallels are drawn between Ariel Sharon and President George W. Bush who, if he acted on the Israeli model, would have declared bin Laden irrelevant and broken off contact with al Qaeda at Tora Bora…
Sharon is reminded that he rode in to office last February on the “security for every Israeli” ticket. The first 12 days of December were a dismal landmark: 40 Israelis died in terror attacks – all civilians but one, and more than half, children and teenagers. Dozens remain in hospital. For the first time since Arafat launched his confrontation with Israel nearly 15 months ago, the Israeli death toll has exceeded that of the Palestinians.
Before Israel tagged him “irrelevant”, Arafat ordered the closure of all the offices of the violent Islamic groups Hamas and Jihad Islami – an order that drew a laugh from Hamas spokesmen. Their offices are closed on Ramadan anyway and most of their activity is conducted underground. Arafat refrained from even that ironic gesture until Israeli F-16s and helicopter gunships were overhead Wednesday night, three hours after the bombing-shooting-grenade assault hit a packed bus going into the West Bank settlement of Immanual near Nablus.
The targets of the Israeli air force were all Palestinian Authority military installations, Arafat’s own presidential guard Force 17 HQ in GazaCity and an explosives manufacturing facility in Nablus. Intermittently, through the night, a helipad was torn up in Nablus, Palestinian Radio’s mast knocked down near Arafat’s compound in Ramallah – he was evacuated a few minutes earlier – and Gaza international airport’s radar tower was destroyed. Thursday morning, Israeli troop incursions have begun in Ramallah and in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip.
Several Palestinians were injured in the aerial bombing runs.
Israeli military activity Wednesday night and Thursday is the preamble to a wider operation implicit in the severance of contacts with the Palestinian Authority, its commanders and its head. Future meetings, including those of the tripartite security commission chaired by a US officer, will be boycotted. The last three were hosted by US envoy General Anthony Zinni, each punctuated by escalating terror attacks and the Palestinian leader’s refusal to heed mounting international demands to halt the violence and detain its perpetrators.
The difference from Thursday morning, December 13, is that Israel will cease addressing its demands to Arafat; its troops will do the job themselves “as though the PA is non-existent”. Their first missions are to drive deeper than ever before into Palestinian cities and large villages, to “deal with” terrorist cells on the spot, instead of indirectly. The 270 IDF roadblocks in the West Bank have proved unequal to the task of stemming terrorist activity.
If the Palestinian Authority collapses under this military pressure, so be it. It has been formally ruled “irrelevant”, although its salaried “security” officers are as deeply engaged in terror as the blacklisted Islamic groups.
Indeed, according to debkafile‘s military sources,the Immanuel attack, like most of the terrorist operations this month, was carried out by a combination of forces and groups, using their best resources. Its Lebanese characteristics, directed now against civilians, are further evidence that Arafat actively employs Hizballah “experts”, instructors, bomb-makers and tacticians.
The first targets for deep Israeli incursions are the 5 Palestinian villages around Immanuel. After one assailant in the latest attack was shot dead, the remaining two slipped through the net thrown down by Israeli troops. In the Gaza Strip, Israeli tanks have gone back to the oft-tried stranglehold maneuver of severing the territory into three impassable “cantons”.
But with Israeli troops assigned to lengthy and complicated missions inside Palestinian areas, there are urgent questions for the Sharon government to address: How long must they stay to make sure terrorist purges hold? Must they continue to go in every time the terror tide rises and then leave? When does a prolonged stay become reoccupation? – which many military experts and right-wing politicians say that the rising campaign of terror has made unavoidable. How can this campaign be fought effectively with euphemisms that dodge defining the crisis as war and the Palestinian Authority as the enemy? And how much more bloodletting can the ordinary Israeli endure?

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