Palestinian Terror Blows up in US Envoy’s Face – Again
Israelis, faced with daily terrorist attacks on civilian targets, have been smothered in a blanket of diplo-babble since the US Middle East envoy Anthony Zinni landed last Thursday, March 15. But while Israelis were left to grope their way through an opaque thicket of verbiage, the Palestinians simply carried on as usual.
On day three of the Zinni mission, one Israeli civilian was killed and 32 injured in two terrorist attacks in the first part of Sunday, March 17 – both in the heart of Israeli cities. One or more gunmen struck downtown Kfar Saba, northeast of Tel Aviv, and a suicide bomber hit a busy intersection in North Jerusalem.
Another terrorist on his way to Jerusalem from the Ramallah area did not make it; his bomb belt blew up and killed him before he reached the city.
The killers struck with awful predictability one day after foreign minister Shimon Peres declared that Israel would give up its military responses to terrorist strikes, except for “ticking bombs”. He kept pace with his fellow Labor cabinet member, the defense minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer, who announced he had decided to hold back on any action in response for last week’s unprovoked attack from Lebanon on a Galilee highway, in which six Israelis died.
Ben Eliezer’s answer to this forbearance was delivered Sunday, when the northern Mediterranean town of Nahariya was placed on a high terror alert for fear of a sea-borne Hizballah assault.
The defense minister was consistent: a few hours before Zinni landed, he ordered the chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, to cut short the Ramallah operation and not touch the terror kingpins sheltering in Arafat’s enclave.
As soon as the US envoy arrived, Sharon asked him to convene a trilateral conference with the Palestinians, to get the truce talks going. The Palestinians refused to join the talks, demanding first a full Israeli pullout from Palestinian areas, with American guarantees that Israeli troops would not return. Israel agreed to the withdrawal as long as the Palestinian Authority took responsibility for the evacuated land. The Palestinians refused.
Sunday, they gave the US envoy the welcome that was familiar to him from his two previous mediation attempts – a hail of terror against Israeli civilians.
Nonetheless, at Sunday’s cabinet session in Jerusalem, prime minister Ariel Sharon paid lip service to all and sundry with a serpentine statement. After the ceasefire process (originally defined by CIA Director George Tenet) goes into effect, Israeli will refrain from aerial attacks and confine its targeted liquidations to “ticking bombs” – on condition that the Palestinians preserve calm. If not, Israel would respond to violence during the truce negotiations as well.
The linkup between Arafat’s brand of terror with al Qaeda, Hizballah and Iraq, pointed out repeatedly by debkafile was manifested painfully in a single Sunday morning. An al Qaeda hit team hurled grenades into a Protestant church in the well-guarded diplomatic compound of Islamabad, killing five worshippers and injuring more than 40.
The carnage in Islamabad is horrifyingly familiar to every Israeli, who asks why President George W. Bush is so resolute about rooting out the al Qaeda brand of terror, while so anxious to accommodate the Arafat kind with smiling emissaries.
As for Ariel Sharon, he is accused increasingly day by day of reneging on his election pledge to provide every Israeli with basic security.