The next round of shelling
Most Israelis and the American administrations don't regard the IDF's unbridled reign over three million Palestinians as the main problem. But every Palestinian sees the occupation as the root problem.
What will happen if and when Yasser Arafat's orders for a cease-fire are ignored? What will the IDF bomb if and when the implementation of Arafat's orders don't meet the conditions set by the Israelis and Americans?
The first "if" is already superfluous. On Monday, less than 24 hours after Arafat's speech and his call to obey the cease-fire, four Israelis were wounded in Palestinian ambushes in various locations in the West Bank. Three Palestinians happened to be killed by IDF fire that same day, including, according to Palestinian reports, a 13-year-old who was holding a plastic rifle.
The Israeli and American conditions are firm:
1. Arafat will arrest people on the lists he was given, even while the buildings used by the security forces that are supposed to make the arrests are being bombed and Palestinian security force personnel are killed, without shooting back, in Israeli raids.
2. Arafat cannot guarantee Palestinian compulsory education because the blockades and checkpoints prevent children from reaching school; he can not guarantee that patients will get treatment before they die at checkpoints, or that vaccinations for children reach every village. He and his security apparatus cannot guarantee that children won't be killed by mines left behind by the IDF, or that fresh food reaches every besieged village. But he is required to guarantee that every Israeli feels safe on the streets of Jerusalem or on the roads of the West Bank and Gaza.
3. Arafat is required to control every individual of his people, without controlling the territory in which those people live. Israeli-only roads are still being paved in the West Bank, with Palestinian land expropriated for that purpose; neighborhoods in the settlements are expanding, while Palestinian construction requires Israeli approval. Arafat can't change any of that, even though the construction clearly costs the Palestinians in land reserves and in their future. But he is required to make sure that not a single shot is fired from one of the villages already crowded by a nearby settlement.
To Israelis and Western countries, these conditions appear logical. They are largely based on the reasoning behind the Oslo Accords and their accompanying letters: Arafat promised to immediately cease the acts of terror and violence. In exchange, he was promised a gradual Israeli withdrawal from the territories, from an undefined area, at a pace that Israel can slow down or speed up. Arafat received no guarantee that there would be an end to the constant devouring of land for settlements.
These conditions do not appear logical to Palestinians. But this time, when it's not the withdrawal that is at stake but the Tenet work plan and the Mitchell recommendations, the Palestinian leadership had to obey, because, among other things, the Palestinian political system and civil society failed morally and tactically when it did not repudiate in time and loudly - meaning before massive external pressure - the terror attacks against Israeli civilians and its logic of revenge, and did not stick to the grass-roots campaign against the occupation.
Most Israelis and the American administrations don't regard the IDF's unbridled reign over three million Palestinians as the main problem. But every Palestinian sees the occupation as the root problem. The Palestinians do count their dead. All it takes is three people to decide that they aren't bound by the conditions imposed on Arafat, and that they have the right to avenge the death of a 13-year-old, for the Israeli government to feel free to continue its military offensive, claiming it is defensive, and for the Israeli public to accept the next steps without question. Therefore, the question what will be bombed the next time is relevant.
There aren't many buildings belonging to the Palestinian security forces left to bomb. Meanwhile, as far as the Israeli public is concerned, with its feeling that there is a military solution to the terrorism, the problem is solved with the exaggerated importance given to every building that is shelled once or many times. But how many times can a pile of rubble be bombed?
Will the next buildings be the Ministry for Planning and Cooperation, headed by Nabil Sha'ath? There's one well-appointed building in the Ramallah neighborhood currently under IDF control, and a second one in Gaza. Usually polite, after Sha'ath went through the bombings last week and saw the destruction of 36 Khan Yunis buildings by IDF bulldozers, he also publicly cursed the United States.
So, what about the Palestinian Education Ministry? Aren't the schools responsible for the incitement, which is the only thing that prevents Palestinian children from being happy to see armed soldiers in their homes and neighborhoods or helicopters firing missiles from above?
The same logic of constant attack, which has yet to encounter any serious grass-roots opposition inside Israel and has made the conditions presented to Arafat the only option available, will continue to develop - grotesquely and with disastrous consequences. And while the first time the Palestinian Education Ministry is bombed, there will be big headlines, with lengthy explanations of the security significance of the operation, the second and third bombings will get only a couple of lines in the papers.