First Part: The Slaughter
The slaughter of innocents inflicted on Israel this week by Palestinian murderers is unparalleled since the days of Nazi Germany. No longer are Israelis murdered singly; whole families are being wiped out while asleep, riding buses, celebrating.
The terror stalking every corner of the country lends the term holocaust a fearful, intimate meaning for the offspring of those who survived the Nazis and in 1949 founded a Jewish state and a national defense force, vowing that never again would Jewish children die defenseless.
This week, Israelis began accusing their government of violating this vow.
Of all governments, the administration headed by a fabled hardliner, Ariel Sharon, stands accused of abandoning the country to its fate. More particularly, it is the triumvirate he leads with his two Labor partners, defense minister Binyamin bin Eliezer and the co-author of the Oslo accords which brought Yasser Arafat back to the country, foreign minister Shimon Peres, that is in the popular dock.
None of the three confess to committing any political or tactical errors even when, during four days this week, 34 Israelis, 32 of them civilians and many children, died at the hands of Palestinian killers. Nothing the Sharon government has done is proving effective for stemming the slaughter; nor will it prevent the continuation of the killing next week, which is predicted by debkafile‘s intelligence sources.
Thursday night, June 20, a Palestinian broke into a house at Itamar, a settlement south of Nablus, murdered Rahel Shevo and her three children, Neria, 15, Tsvi, 12, Avishai, 5, and the security officer Yosef Tawito, who rushed to their rescue. Two more children of the Shevo family are fighting for their lives in hospital, as are two border guards.
Three weeks ago, Palestinian killers targeted the same settlement, shooting dead three 14-year old youths playing baseball. Their friend, who survived the attack, was blasted to his death Wednesday, June 19, by a huge charge detonated in the evening rush hour by another Palestinian terrorist at the French Hill intersection of north Jerusalem.
That atrocity claimed seven lives, among them 5-year old Gal Eizerman from Maaleh Adumim, and her grandmother, Noa Alon, 60, from Ofra, and left 30 injured.
The next day, Avraham Nehmad, 17, from Rishon Lezion, died after four months in a coma from the wounds he suffered in a Palestinian bombing attack in the religious quarter of Jerusalem. He never knew he was the eighth victim of the family to die in that single attack on a Bar Mitzva celebration in Jerusalem.
Tuesday, June 18, a Palestinian suicide bomber blew up a Jerusalem bus, killing 19 and injuring 52, most from shell-battered Gilo.
Saturday, June 22, 30 injured victims of the week’s carnage remain in hospital, 10 in critical condition. All the Palestinian terrorist groups are eager to claim responsibility for these atrocities – from Arafat’s Fatah and its offshoots, to the Islamic Hamas and Jihad Islami and the PFLP which assassinated an Israeli cabinet minister, Rehavam Zeevi, last year.
Israelis find themselves trapped increasingly in a grim routine. Newscasts switched on everywhere sound more like funeral bulletins with accounts of bloodshed and the tales of horror pouring out until interrupted by breaking news of the next calamity.
In French Hill, acquaintances running into each other Friday, June 21, nodded silently, barely able to speak.
The big French Hill intersection is the location of bus stops and heavy traffic heading from central and southern Jerusalem to its northern suburbs, the Dead Sea, West Bank settlements and other points north, as well as a soldiers’ hitchhiking post.
Commonly described as the best-guarded junction in the country, it turned out after the bombing that only four police border guards officers were on duty without walkie-talkies. They communicated by shouting against the noise of roaring traffic. The Palestinian district of Beit Hanina is walking distance from the intersection. French Hill parks have been taken over by Palestinian youths from surrounding villages who vandalize property, menace local residents and maintain round-the clock surveillance of their movements.
In other words, four policemen at the French Hill intersection were the flimsy rampart thrown up against Palestinian terror assaults that are backed up by an efficient surveillance-intelligence system at one of the capital’s key intersections and a complete neighborhood.
This precarious situation is mirrored up and down Israeli areas abutting West Bank locations.
The ordinary Israeli asks himself why, after two years of spiraling Palestinian terror, his government is still incapable of overcoming this chronic menace to himself and his family, why it is not fending off the Palestinians’ homicidal suicide onslaught.
Second Part: Arafat’s Suicide Killers Are Winning
The ordinary Israeli who wants to know why is government is incapable of keeping him and his family safe from Palestinian terror will not be told the real reason. The answer is that the Sharon-Ben Eliezer-Peres triumvirate share an interest in keeping its terror’s evil genius, Yasser Arafat, safe at his command post in Ramallah, each out of considerations of his own.
debkafile uses the term “command post” advisedly. Arafat sits in his protected compound in Ramallah at the center of a web of aides and minions. Together they run the Palestinian suicide murder campaign against Israelis, rubbing their hands with glee over the Israeli government’s reprisals. As seen from Ramallah, the suicide campaign is a brilliant success.
Indeed, Arafat sees the actions ordered by the Sharon government in retaliation for terror attacks as playing into his hands. He wants nothing more than for Israel to send Israeli troops back into Palestinian West Bank towns and erect its 215-mile defensive fence to keep the terrorists in populated Palestinian areas of the West Bank from entering Israel. He is looking forward an Israeli government resolve to break up the Palestinian Authority and deport him together with his top aides.
Why? Because, contrary to the commonly accepted view, Arafat is not after a Palestinian state and has lost interest in the survival of a Palestinian Authority. His goals have been honed down to two:
1. To go underground, like Osama bin Laden, and continue his terror campaign for the destruction of the state of Israel from secret hideouts.
2. Unlike the Palestinian people, Arafat nurtures a burning ambition to be counted part of the world Islamic jihad that aims to lay the United States to waste – or at least injure it badly enough to fall off its perch as the world’s No. 1 superpower. That position will then be free for appropriation by the international Islamic nation.
Arafat believes fervently that by joining this subversive jihad, he will purchase a lead role the Islamic nation’s ruling institutions after America is vanquished.
Why do Sharon, Peres and Ben Eliezer close their eyes to Arafat’s rationale?
Sharon has three reasons:
A. It is part of his commitment to keep his policies attuned with those of the Bush administration. Sharon believes that the processes ordered for the region by Washington will provide him with his opportunity for liquidating Arafat together with the prospects of independent Palestinian statehood.
The only difficulty with this strategy is that the Bush policies have gone awry. Even after the Afghan campaign, America has not been able to overcome the threat posed by Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network of Islamic terror. By the same token, the latest Israeli government decision to send Israeli troops to retake Palestinian areas after each terror attack will not vanquish the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the main terrorist arm of Arafat’s Fatah.
B. He keeps his triumvirate and his national unity government intact and disarms his enemies in the far left. Labor leaders Shimon Peres and Binyamin Ben Eliezer will not leave their key positions as foreign and defense ministers in a hurry, so long as Arafat is not given the final push. Both depend on the goodwill of Washington for staying in office. The glue binding the three men is therefore much stronger than the occasional squabbles that are blown out of proportion by the media. All their arguments end in full accord.
C. His hands are tied by economic restraints. Sharon’s chef de bureau, Dov Weissglass admitted in a recent press interview that he has business contacts with Arafat’s personal financial adviser, Mohammed Rashid, and he hopes those contacts will open up a useful diplomatic channel to Arafat. It is hard to see how, when a senior prime minister’s aide does business with the leading financial backer of Palestinian terror, the prime minister can at the same time wage a resolute fight to the finish against that same terror.
Peres has two reasons:
A. So closely has the foreign minister’s career in the last decade approximated that of Yasser Arafat, that Palestinian leader’s extinction would signal his own eclipse as well. The formidable deceit and disinformation system that has accompanied the Oslo accords process in the last eight years would be exposed.
As illustrations, debkafile brings to light three little-known facts:
1) When Arafat flew to Washington to join President Clinton, the late Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, and Peres for the signing ceremony of the Oslo Accords, he used an airplane placed at his disposal by Saddam Hussein. The other signatories pretended not to notice.
2) When Arafat on his way back from the signing ceremony, he touched down in Cairo and declared: “We are all hastening to become martyrs.” Arafat customarily uses martyrs in the sense of suicide fighters. For the Israeli public, this declaration was mistranslated then and ever since – “projects” instead of “martyrs” – to obfuscate Arafat’s real motives, which he himself as never concealed.
Uninterested in the interests of the big powers, the region or even the Palestinians, Arafat has always been moved single-mindedly by his ambition to destroy Israel by violence.
During the years that Israel abided by the Oslo accord and gave up one piece of land after another, Arafat moved from words to deeds. He provided his Fatah group with its own suicide terrorist arm, the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, which has since rivaled even the Islamic extremist Hamas and Jihad Islami in the manufacture of human bombs.
For eight years, one Israeli government after another, together with America and Europe, kept up the pretence of a successful peace process, while Arafat shaped the most effective terrorist machine ever seen. No one can complain of ignorance when minutes after signing the Oslo peace agreements, Arafat announced his intentions to anyone who wanted to listen.
The non-listeners included the late Yizhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, who counted on the peril somehow going unnoticed.
Today, Israelis are paying the price of their leaders’ deliberate inattentiveness to the full.
Binyamin Eliezer has one reason, and that is to hold on to his jobs as defense minister and Labor party leader. His handshake with Sharon provides each the political backing he needs. If the Sharon government falls, so too do Ben Eliezer and his party.
Therefore, the three members of the triumvirate are mutually dependent on each other for their political survival. If Sharon lays a finger on Arafat, he loses his two allies and his government collapses. All three share an interest in the Palestinian leader remaining at his command post in Ramallah to protect their alliance and perpetuate their rule.
Even the hawkish right wing ministers, aware of this reality, are shy of urging Arafat’s liquidation – proposing only that he and his terror chiefs in the Palestinian Authority be expelled.
At the same time, all three leaders are being forced to face down mounting criticism from a population that can take only so much. The most uncomfortable question confronting them from the electorate is this: We voted for Sharon 18 months ago because he promised us security. He has not delivered. The only individual to whom Sharon has given life insurance is Yasser Arafat.
Sharon and his government must either come up with a convincing reply to this question, or find a way to extinguish the flames of terror consuming the country. Sending in more troops and tanks and grabbing Palestinian land will not hold back Arafat’s bus bombers and suicide killers, any more than will electronic fences. The affliction can only be cured at source.
Two ways are self-evident:
One, to stop holding Arafat’s personal safety sacrosanct and separating him from his terror machine. The other is to cut him off from the financial resources oiling the wheels of terror.
Part three: Money is Terror’s Second Name
To eradicate the plague of terror it is necessary to understand its structure, workings and motivations.
The al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, headed by Col. Tawfiq Tirawi, chief of Palestinian general security on the West Bank, were assembled by Yasser Arafat from two main elements:
1. Cadres of Palestinian terrorists released from Israeli prisons in line with the 1993 Oslo Peace accords, who swore to revenge themselves against Israel.
2. The dregs of Palestinian gangland, the murderers, robbers, rapists, rustlers and thieves, who instead of seeing the inside of Palestinian Authority jails were reinvented as national heroes.
With guns and paychecks from Yasser Arafat, this force became the dominant element of the Palestinian Authority’s security force – especially after Arafat launched his al Aqsa Intifada in September 2000. The other Palestinian terrorist bodies, the Fatah-Tanzim, Force 17, Hamas, Jihad Islami and the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine, were reduced to subsidiary roles.
The Gaza Strip branch of the al Aqsa Brigades is structured differently from the main West Bank body. There, the force falls under the Popular Resistance Committees, which are dominated by the territory’s strongman, Mohamed Dahlan.
Putting together hardened Palestinian terrorists, consumed with hate for Israel, with tough criminal clansmen, assured Arafat of a force that was unafraid of violence, devoid of moral and political scruples and totally dedicated to the leadership of their paymaster.
With this force at his command, Arafat also kept Palestinian society quiescent under his rule. Would-be dissidence from politicians, intellectuals and financial circles, quickly melted away for fear of Arafat’s private army of thugs.
Because the violent and obedient al Aqsa Brigades are the central pool from which Arafat draws his terrorists and suicide killers, they must be liquidated as a first priority.
This can be accomplished by means of two devices:
1. By depriving their master, Arafat, and direct commander,Tawfiq Tirawi, of the power to issue their orders;
2. By choking off their funding.
When, during Operation Defensive Shield last April, Israeli tanks held Arafat to siege in his compound, he was allowed to keep at his side Tirawi, Dahlan, and Ahmad Saadat, the heads of the al Aqsa Brigades and the main Palestinian terror groups. In other words, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon instructed the IDF to leave the connection between Arafat and the al Aqsa Brigades in place.
The same immunity was extended in the siege at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, in which members of the Bethlehem Palestinian mafia who make up the local branch of the al Aqsa brigades took sanctuary. The amazing part of that episode was the way in which the US president George W. Bush, secretary of state Colin Powell, the CIA, the British MI6, the Israeli prime minister, the IDF and the Shin Beit, all combined to invest their best efforts to ensure the safe exit of a gang of criminal-terrorists. They were clearly seen as such when they trooped out of the church.
As long as Arafat has this force at his bidding, he can keep the suicide-terror offensive running. Totally isolating him as Sharon refrained from doing in April, despite his solemn avowals, would leave the al Aqsa Brigades headless and without operational orders. It would also leave them starved of funds, which come from the same source as their orders. They would therefore be unwilling to give their services to any other master.
Aside from the Palestinian leader himself, only two people have access to Arafat’s personal multi-billon fortune which bankrolls his terrorist machine. They are Mohammed Rashid, his personal financial adviser, who is not a Palestinian but of Kurdish descent, and his wife, Suha, who lives apart from her husband in Paris. Fouad Shubaki, the Palestinian treasurer under detention in Jericho in American-British custody, has some knowledge of the secret Arafat accounts, though no access.
Without Arafat in control of his fortune, the flow of money to the al Aqsa Brigades would dry up and the Palestinian suicide-terror offensive, gradually peter out. Neither Rashid nor Suha Arafat is a likely candidate for command of the force. With Arafat and his funding for terror out of the picture, his minions, the men who pull the strings of the terrorists and suicide bombers, will step aside too.
Hundreds of Israeli tanks will no longer need to chase Palestinian terrorists through West Bank towns, whose populations go hungry while their leader buys bombs for terrorists; neither will a controversial security fence costing millions of dollars to erect be needed to keep the terrorists in their lairs. Finally, an end may be in sight at last for the anguish, the grief and the mourning holding Israel in their grip.