It is now two years since PA Chairman Yasser Arafat launched his war of terror against Israel in the expectation that the people of Israel would not be able to withstand for long a wave of terror that reached their streets and homes. It took the massacre at Netanya's Park Hotel on Passover eve for the government to awaken to the fact that Israel was not facing sporadic terrorist incidents or a cycle of violence, but rather a full-fledged war that threatened Israel's existence. Only then was the IDF ordered to enter the Palestinian cities that harbored the terrorist cells and go after the men who orchestrated and conducted this campaign of terror. Best forgotten are past Israeli announcements of unilateral cease-fires, the bluster that "restraint was an expression of power," that the prime minister would not allow himself to be dragged into war, or that he was not going to escalate the conflict. The air has finally been cleared of these misconceptions.
It is now high time for the government to adopt a clear coherent policy for winning this war quickly and setting the stage for negotiations with the Palestinians. It is needed so that IDF actions will be pursued efficiently; it is needed so that the Israeli public, which is bearing the brunt of this war, can see where we are going. It is equally important that the Palestinian population understands our position, and that the world understands the rationale behind our actions. There is no room for "constructive ambiguity" here. At this critical moment, Israel's message must be unambiguous.
Unfortunately, almost the opposite seems to be the case. In all likelihood, government ministers themselves have difficulty understanding where all this is leading. First, the government "decides" that Arafat is now irrelevant. In anybody's language that means that he has no influence on events in the area. Some weeks later, the government decides that this "irrelevant" man must be "isolated," presumably meaning that whereas he does influence events, that influence has to be curtailed by bringing about his "isolation." This "isolation" was to be accomplished by IDF bulldozers knocking down buildings in the Muqata in Ramallah, where Arafat has been ensconced these past weeks. As a result, he may now have a clearer view of his physical surroundings, but he is hardly more isolated than he was before the latest IDF action there. As everyone knows, Arafat is in constant contact by cellular telephone with his underlings, receiving reports and issuing instructions. But what's more, at the same time, Israeli officials, on instruction from government ministers, meet and negotiate with Arafat's subordinates, who maintain such contacts with his permission, negotiate according to his instructions, and report back to him. Arafat's popularity has suddenly been given a boost. Some irrelevance and some isolation!
The subsequent withdrawal of the IDF from the Muqata under U.S. pressure, that should have been anticipated in light of President George W. Bush's moves to form an international consensus for his Iraqi policy, made the government's action seem downright foolish.
Israel needs, and is capable of obtaining, a decisive victory in this war that has been foisted on us and that has already taken such a heavy toll. A decisive victory that will serve as a deterrent to any future recurrence of terrorist warfare against Israeli civilians means suppressions of the Palestinian terrorist networks and bringing down Arafat and his entourage who are responsible for the tragic events of the past two years. No victory is complete without bringing down the leadership that initiated the aggression. That is history's lesson and it is not likely to be different this time. The need for replacing Arafat is recognized by the president of the U.S., and is by now understood by many of the world's leaders and even by many Palestinians. They all know there is little chance of constructive negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians taking place as long as the Palestinians are led by Arafat and the terrorists he has brought with him from Tunis.
But when the Israeli government and its officials, or IDF officers on the government's instructions, meet and negotiate with Arafat's emissaries, somebody in Jerusalem must have his wires crossed. Such ambiguous signals can only sow confusion. What is sorely needed is plain talk and consistent actions.
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