Who would have believed that it would take the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11 to finally bring into focus the violence that Arafat has unleashed against Israel ever since his return from the Camp David negotiations with Ehud Barak? Now it is clear to almost all that he has been waging a war against Israel these past 15 months.
Having no aircraft or tanks he is utilizing the weapons at his disposal: the automatic weapons he was given by the Labor government after the Oslo agreements in one of the most foolish acts in recorded history, car bombs, and suicide bombers. In recent months, he has added home made mortars to his armory.
There are almost daily attempts of roadside killings and mortar attacks. Gilo, Psagot, the settlements of Gush Katif, and the Jewish Quarter of Hebron are intermittently subjected to automatic rifle fire.
Hardly a week goes by without suicide bombers or car bombs taking their toll on the streets of Israel's cities. The Palestinian Authority under Arafat's leadership is waging war against Israel.
Throughout the years since the Oslo agreements Arafat has deliberately permitted Hamas and Islamic Jihad to organize and operate in the areas under the control of the Palestinian Authority and allowed them to execute their murderous acts of terror whenever he thought that it suited his purpose. In the past 15 months they have been joined by the forces under the direct control of Arafat's Fatah organization, the Tanzim and Force 17, and the assorted security and police services of the Palestinian Authority.
Israel's response until recently has been limited to retaliations for acts of terror committed by Palestinians, targeting known terrorists, and repeated attempts to arrange for a cease-fire.
Two reasons were given for this limited response: concern that the international community, and particularly the U.S., would object to more drastic military action by the IDF; and the need to placate Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and his Labor colleagues in the national unity government. Calls for more drastic military action have been answered by the claim that in any case all effective measures were already being taken.
But things changed radically in the aftermath of September 11. As the Twin Towers collapsed and the Pentagon was hit and thousands of Americans fell victim to fundamentalist Islamic suicide bombers, America came face to face with the danger of terrorism very much like Israel under Palestinian terrorist attack for many years.
President Bush declared war on terror, a war that he says is not limited to Afghanistan. "Whoever harbors terrorists is a terrorist" he repeats, knowing full well that Arafat fits that description. "Israel has the right to defend itself," says the White House spokesperson after the latest IDF operations in areas under the Palestinian Authority's control.
It is clear that Washington will voice little objection as Israel pursues its battle against Palestinian terror. That constraint on Israel's military operations, to the extent that it existed these past 15 months, is not there any more.
Actually, it should have been clear as George Bush Jr. entered the White House that this president was going to demonstrate little tolerance for Palestinian terror and that he was not likely to welcome Yasser Arafat to the White House like his predecessor Bill Clinton.
Nor would he show much sympathy for the man who invented aircraft hijacking, ordered the murder of the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games and was responsible for countless other atrocities. Bush is a tough, no-nonsense president.
As for Shimon Peres, the dinosaur of the Oslo era, his objections to the recent cabinet decision that Arafat harbors terrorists in the areas under his control, is probably not even being taken seriously by his colleagues in the Labor Party. Their departure from the cabinet meeting prior to the vote has not endeared them to the Israeli public.
There will be little reason to take their theatrics into account in future decisions on Israel's defense against terror. That is another constraint on IDF operations that is gone with the wind.
The latest IDF operations in areas under the Palestinian Authority's control have met with little resistance, demonstrating that the fears voiced in the past that these would be costly and dangerous operations were groundless.
There is no other way of destroying Arafat's military infrastructure and the terrorist cells of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and thus putting an end to Palestinian attacks against Israel's citizens.
Winning the war that Arafat has foisted on Israel is also the prerequisite for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. They can usefully take place only after Palestinian terror has been defeated.
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