It's Arafat, Stupid

From the moment Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat set foot in this country, he has not stopped inciting his people and urging them to choose the path of "blood and fire."

Readers will have to forgive me for not joining the party over Israel's latest "James Bond movie bonanza," as the media hailed the capture of the "Karine A," in banner headlines designed to produce a national hard-on. Seizing this vast arsenal of weapons was important for pragmatic reasons, but it was also a PR tool squeezed like a lemon, with the whole of the defense and political establishment hitching a ride.

For a moment, it felt like good old Israel again: the Israel of Operation Entebbe, a mission incomparable in planning and derring-do; the Israel that blew up Iraq's nuclear reactor, for which the world is still offering a prayer of thanks; the Israel preparing for a sortie to Iran, or possibly another to Iraq.

The problem is that between basking in the glories of old and gearing up for the perils of the future, we have not managed to find a solution to the current threat outside our door: About what will happen the day after this "daring raid, lifted straight from a Hollywood action flick," our leaders haven't a clue.

On the one hand, what the devil were we thinking? That we could roll tanks into areas controlled by the PA whenever we felt like it, and drop bombs from helicopters and fighter planes without the Palestinians looking for a way to hit back? On the other hand, we could say that the need for tanks and other such weaponry might have been avoided from the start if Arafat had curbed violence and terror - a commitment that formed the basis for the Oslo accords and the establishment of the PA.

From the moment Arafat set foot in this country, he has not stopped inciting his people and urging them to choose the path of "blood and fire." Terror has flourished because of Arafat and his umbrella of rhetoric. No matter how many times this has been said, it bears repeating: Arafat is the one who brought Netanyahu and Sharon to power, and trampled the peace camp. At no point has he ever reached the kind of dialogue that has tested Israel's willingness to compromise.

I am not prepared to shed a tear for the blockades and curfews and suffering of the Palestinian people when the person who is mainly to blame for them is Arafat. No country in the world would be prepared to tolerate the bloody script he has imposed on us. The ministers of the Likud calling night and day for the termination of the Oslo accords can save their breath: Every day, Arafat personally reburies them.

The lethal cargo of this ship points to two schools of thought and one conclusion. One school of thought favors the Lebanon model, i.e., the creation of a frightening tit for tat: four kinds of anti-armor devices to knock out our tanks; and missiles and rockets capable of reaching every city in Israel in retaliation for air force operations. The object is to wear down Israeli society and bring about a unilateral withdrawal from the territories. Just like the Hezbollah did to us.

The other school of thought favors the Bosnia model, i.e., pushing the situation downhill to the point where an international military force intercedes to prevent an Israeli invasion of the territories - a move that Netanyahu talks about openly, and is not beyond Sharon either.

One way or another, one comes to the conclusion that Arafat has lost his sense of judgment, if not his mind. After September 11, a person has to be mighty cocky to commission a shipload of arms, the bulk of which will be used to carry out acts of terror. Arafat has reached the point of acting in direct contradiction to what his colleagues in the Palestinian Authority think. The amazing thing is that no one - neither the veterans nor the up-and-coming leaders - has lifted a finger to unseat him, although they have a whole slew of names for him, the most parliamentary of them being "whore."

The Palestinians have learned a lot from us, but there are a few more things they can still learn: For example, how Ben-Gurion's friends wiped him out politically when he became a liability; how Golda Meir was given the boot after the debacle of the Yom Kippur War; and how Bibi Netanyahu, superstar, was toppled by his own people when they realized what a disaster he was.

Arafat, the mother and father of all terrorists, does not want an agreement, and is not capable of reaching one. Thus he has become a strategic threat not only to Israel, but even more so, to his own people. They are the ones who should be settling the score with him.