Thursday, December 13, 2001

Matzav Update

There was another suicide attack in Haifa this week. The bomber tried to get onto a bus, but a couple of policemen spotted him, so he blew himself up with a small charge. The small charge was designed to injure people, and then he was supposed to detonate a second, much larger bomb, when the paramedics came to help his victims. The first bomb went off and lightly injured some people, and the bomber himself survived, although on fire. Police noticed that the had a second bomb, so they shot him, and the bomber died with a bullet wound and burning alive, but he had time to look around and see that he hadn’t killed anyone but himself.

Sadly, last night, there was another terrorist attack on a bus in the territories. A roadside bomb plus gunfire killed ten. The terrorists did not run but lay in wait, and, when the ambulances came, they attacked again trying to kill as many paramedics as they could. This is getting too familiar. In response, the cabinet referred to Arafat as “irrelevant,” broke off all ties, and bombed some empty buildings in Gaza for the cameras, to little or no effect. This afternoon, Israel destroyed the “Voice of Palestine” radio station, which used to belong to Arafat. They are now broadcasting on another frequency from somewhere else, and I expect that later tonight the army will soon track that station down and destroy it.

This week, there was also a controversial interview on the Israeli news with Arafat, who is still caged in Ramallah after Israel destroyed his getaway helicopters. The government requested that the interview not be aired; comparing its actions to the United States’ request that American news services not broadcast interviews with Osama bin Laden. The news crew went ahead and did it, and it was quite fascinating to watch. The Israeli interviewer spoke fluent Arabic and asked straightforward questions, to which Arafat was quite unaccustomed. Arafat had someone sitting behind him whispering into his ear what to say throughout the interview. He flew into a rage at one point, as well as confusing several peoples’ names and other facts. The tendency of Arab dictators to behave irrationally and lose self-control is both an advantage and a disadvantage to Israel. You can never predict what the Arabs are going to do, but whatever it is, it is usually wrong.

I continue to be astonished at the level of support Israel has been getting internationally. Straight-talking American Middle East Envoy General Zinni got through a meeting with Arafat and stated, “I have never encountered such lack of trustworthiness in my life,” and that it would be, “a waste of time to try to reach a serious agreement with Arafat." He said he hopes to work with other Palestinian leaders instead. Even the Europeans are pitching in, with the EU pressuring Arafat to crack down on militants and dismantle Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Everybody knows that this is totally impossible because, last I heard, about half of Arafat’s security forces, policemen, soldiers, terrorists, whatever, are also in the employ of Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

Personally, I feel that all the focus on Arafat is misleading. Palestinian society has decided to wage war, and Arafat is just following them. Whether Arafat is alive or not, the conflict will continue.

So where is all of this headed? To be honest, I don’t know. I can say one thing for sure, the government has not yet begun to treat this conflict with appropriate seriousness, and I think, unfortunately, it will get much worse before it gets better. The left wing has a disproportionate level of control at this time. Due to certain loopholes which former Prime Minister Barak took advantage of when he resigned, there was no general election earlier this year, only a prime ministerial election, so the parliament is still heavily left-wing, with Labor (left) controlling 26 seats and Likkud (right) 19 seats, the rest of the 120 seats belonging to various small parties. This despite the fact that if the elections were held today, Likkud is polling 50 seats and Labor less than 20, and Sharon has a 70% approval rating. What this means is that the Labor party, which still hasn’t grasped the total failure of the Oslo process, is still able to control many important government policies, and is restraining the government from taking forceful action. The next elections are scheduled for 2003, and it could be just that long before there is any concrete military action on the ground.

The official government spokespeople say that the current intifada will last until at least 2003. The calculation is quite simple: The number of bullets which the Palestinians are known or suspected to have, minus the number they fire into the air in wild celebration, this quantity divided by the number of bullets fired per day. I have been listening to the “experts” on internet radio and newspapers, and they all suggest different actions, but it is pretty clear that, by their opinions, an extremely forceful and lethal response needs to be taken. It is also clear that all actions taken up to this point, such as blowing up empty buildings and killing terrorist leaders, have been proven ineffective. In a Jerusalem Post Radio interview, Martin Van Crewald, Professor of Military History and Strategy at Hebrew University, stated that the situation will get worse and worse as the Arabs become better and better at terrorism and that it will only be ended when the government decides to take decisive action and root out the terrorists, which will probably involve losses on the Israeli side as well as killing thousands of enemy civilians, since terrorists and civilians are indistinguishable. I have also heard other suggestions from military personalities that the only way to end the constant firing of mortars, missiles, and bullets from Beit Jallah into Jerusalem is to line up tanks and bulldozers and announce over the radio that the next bullet that comes out of Beit Jallah will result in the destruction of fifty apartment buildings, and then the army will have to carry through on the threat five or six times. However long it takes until the residents of Beit Jallah determine that their odds of survival are better if they kick out the terrorists using their neighborhood as a base than if they face the Israeli army. Israel will also have to take this threat seriously enough to cut off all electricity, gas, and water to the Palestinian areas, which it provides free of charge.

It sounds horrible as I write it, but I think that this is a minimum of what needs to be done. Yes, I am concerned about the human rights of our enemies, and if the Palestinians would stop trying to kill me than I would totally support giving them a state. However, protecting the rights of my enemies takes a back seat to my own personal survival. Americans are experiencing the same thing today in Afghanistan. I watch CNN, I see the bodies of all of the innocent people who were killed by the wholesale bombing of Afghanistan, but Americans look at the pictures of the corpses of Afghanistani children being dug up for the cameras and say to themselves “Well, they were probably just killed by the Taliban.” Subconsciously, they know full well that this happened because of the actions of their government and say quietly to themselves, “Better your kids than mine.” Americans realize that their lives are under threat, and they are giving their government carte blanche to do whatever if feels necessary, Geneva Convention or not, to protect them. There is no real peace movement in America, nor is there in Israel, because the people feel their lives directly threatened.

The world seems to have become very insecure and crazy right now. The 90s, a time of prosperity, peace, negotiation, and cultural openness and exchange, officially ended in 2001 with three things: The ascent of George Bush II, the recession, and September 11th. All of this leads to an increase in unilateralism, exemplified by Bush II’s decision to withdraw form the Anti Ballistic Missile treaty today, and the fact that there is no real coalition and no mandate from the UN for what America is doing in Afghanistan. Nobody is talking any more and everybody is just doing what they determine needs to be done.

However the intifada ends, there isn’t going to be a signing on the White House Lawn or a Nobel Peace Prize. The Palestinians have collectively decided that they will not make peace until Israel is completely destroyed and all of its residents are dead or exiled, so there really isn’t anything left to talk about. Any sort of agreement with the Arabs will be reached de-facto and not through negotiations. Any Arab who negotiates with Israel today risks facing the firing squad when he goes home. Any deal with any Palestinian “leader” (killer) reached today would never pass in the parliament. Nobody is compromising on ideology.

Of course, the future is never clear, and I do not possess the gift of prophecy, but if I had to make a prediction as to how this “situation” will progress, this is what I think: The “core issues” of the Peace Process will be settled unilaterally.

Any settlements in which the residents feel themselves to be in personal danger will be abandoned. Many settlements in the Jordan Valley are already being abandoned, not by government order, but by residents who feel their lives are in danger. Meanwhile, settlements in other areas are growing. Those that grow will be defended and retained.

The government has always been hesitant about building walls and fences because it is tantamount to setting a de-facto border. However, the only effective way to deal with terrorist suicide infiltration is to build walls and fences where they cross the most. No prime minister can sacrifice his citizens’ lives in order to be in a better negotiating position, so fences will be built where they must.

Right of Return:
There will be no “Right of Return” for Palestinian refugees into pre-1967 Israel. Israelis aren’t stupid and don’t want to see their state destroyed.

Jerusalem was legally annexed to Israel, and it is an open city, i.e., there are no checkpoints or fences between the Jewish and Arab sections. This ease of access is why so many suicide bombs have gone off in Jerusalem. If suicide bombings get bad enough, the public outcry will be so great that some sort of fence will have to be built. The Arab section will then become the anarchic realm of whatever gangster thug can take control.

The Temple Mount:
The Temple Mount will not be surrendered because, first and foremost, there is nobody to whom it can be surrendered. The Palestinian Authority has essentially disintegrated. Nobody lives on the Temple Mount. Also, the Western Wall is part of the Temple Mount, and Arab worshippers have occasionally stoned and murdered Jewish worshipers there, so it is difficult to imagine a surrender of sovereignty there, if for no other reason than for the sake of the preservation of life.

There will be no workers crossing from the Palestinian areas into Israel to work because Israelis don’t want to have to worry about being killed by their employees. Israel does not depend on the Palestinians at all for its economy and will be unaffected in this respect.

The Palestinian Authority:
Sooner or later, Arafat is going to die. He is 72 years old, has Parkinson’s disease, and is keeping company with cutthroats and gangsters. Even if he survives, he has no control and is, in the words of Sharon, “irrelevant.” The major Palestinian areas are currently separated with very little connection or communication between them in order to prevent a unified front from arising. In each city, a local gangster-thug will take control. Security arrangements and effective cease-fires can be brokered with individual gangster thugs. Those gangster thugs who continue terrorist attacks on Israel will be eliminated.

War is a very painful and frightening thing, but sometimes you don’t have a choice. I pray it ends soon, but I’m not very hopeful

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