Two years ago, during the Pesach holiday, a revolution took place in Israel's war against Palestinian terror. The suicide attack at the Park Hotel in Netanya on seder night led the Israeli government, which still included members of the Labor Party, to decide to reoccupy the cities of the West Bank. That was the beginning of Operation Defensive Shield.
The difference between the 2002 occupation and the first occupation in 1967 was that Israel decided that, this time, it wouldn't take responsibility for the Palestinian civilians in the occupied area, wouldn't collect garbage and wouldn't pay salaries. This time only military might would be used. One of the strategic results is that the Palestinian Authority was, in effect, destroyed and stopped being an address for Israel, or at all. It has remained an address for receiving money, but not for taking responsibility.
The military operation began almost for lack of choice. The explosion at the Park Hotel was the climax of a series of suicide attacks in March 2002. That month Israel paid with more than 130 dead and hundreds of injured. The unprecedented response to the draft of reserve soldiers, in an even higher percentage than during the Six-Day War in 1967, indicated that there was maximum public support at the time for reacting with massive force.
In March 2002, the Palestinians, and not just Hamas, seared Israeli consciousness. Israel painfully perceived that it had no real solution for the suicide attacks. This searing of the consciousness was not received in Israel with mocking comments, as happened when Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon spoke about the need to sear the consciousness of the Palestinians in this war.
The Palestinians have experienced such awareness a number of times already in this long war. That was the case in the 1948 war, when the State of Israel was established, having gained more territories. The Palestinian state was not established, and it turned out that the masses of Palestinian refugees would not be returning to their homes. Another profound impression was made on the Palestinians in 1967, when the Arab armies were defeated, and the Gaza Strip and the West Bank were occupied. The third such impression was made in Lebanon, when Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat and his forces were expelled, as they had been expelled earlier from Jordan.
In the two years that have passed since the attack in the Park Hotel, we have in many senses returned to the starting point. Israel has closed a circle. At present, the Israel Defense Forces are once again imposing a siege on the large Palestinian city of Nablus. At a certain point, Israel accepted the argument that there should be a difference between the treatment of the Palestinian population and the treatment of those who use violence and terror against any Israeli target. In reality, things don't work that way. Israel's proposal to withdraw from four Palestinian cities and afterward to renew negotiations didn't succeed, due to massive terrorist attacks. In Bethlehem, which was considered the least belligerent city, it was recently discovered that Palestinian policemen and members of the preventive security apparatus, whose salaries are paid from international aid funds transferred to the Palestinian Authority, are involved in acts of terrorism.
After the circle was closed, Israel began to move with determination toward broad unilateral moves. First, in the decision to build the separation and security fence. This is being built in many places at the expense of the Palestinians, but the settlers will pay, as well. It turns out that the person whose awareness has been most affected in the terrorist war of the past two years is Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Proof of this is his decision to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, a unilateral step because, he says, Israel has no Palestinian partner. But his insistence that Israeli actions be completely unilateral will eventually lead to increasing international involvement, which could get Israel entangled in imposed solutions.
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