[Documents menu] Documents menu

From MER@middleeast.org Wed May 24 18:45:51 2000
Date: Mon, 10 Apr 2000 21:43:29 -0500 (CDT)
From: MiD-EasT RealitieS <MER@middleeast.org>
Subject: Palestine is Trembling...The Volcano May Erupt
Organization: MiD-EasT RealitieS
Article: 93395
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
X-UIDL: 741c7fd9a6967a485a61a937385eaadb

A walking time bomb

By Yoel Marcus, Ha'aretz,
7 March 2002

The uncovering of a Hamas terrorist cell in Taibeh, the mass terror attacks that were prevented, the horror-filled scenes that we were spared and the security alert that was declared in the wake of the cell's uncovering should set the alarm bells ringing here.Why is this happening now? Why, at this precise moment in time, has the order been given - if, in fact, there was such an order - to renew the terrible scenes of 1996, the horrendous scenes of terrorist attacks on buses, at soldier hitch-hiking stations and in shopping malls?

The standard reply of our security sources that the terrorists keep on trying, but we have been able to thwart attack after attack is not entirely precise. The Hamas organization is highly motivated, it has the personnel, it has the equipment and, if a strategic decision is made to renew terror attacks, it is almost certain that we will see an increase in terrorist incidents.

If, up until now, there has been more smoke than fire, the situation could be attributed, first and foremost, to an understanding between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas's leadership that acts of terror will only sabotage the Palestinians' efforts to achieve their goals. This understanding is not some legal document that you can show in court. Hamas acts or chooses not to act in response to the mood in the streets of the PA. When the Palestinians support Yasser Arafat's strategy in the negotiations regarding Israel, Hamas exercises greater caution. After all, Hamas is a political organization much interested in grass-roots support. Hamas also wants to fortify its position and make preparations for the post-Arafat era. Thus, Hamas needs to live in coexistence with the Palestinians.

The question Why now? can have only one answer: Hamas feels today that the Palestinian public will react positively, if not enthusiastically, to terror attacks against Israeli targets. The negotiating process between Israel and the Palestinians is deadlocked and nothing is moving forward on that front. Arafat, who has felt that he has no partner in forging the peace of the brave since Rabin's assassination, is holding on to the reins of power with every ounce of strength.

Anyone who has recently visited the territories comes back with the same impression: The earth is trembling as if a volcano were on the point of erupting.

The fascination with Hezbollah among Palestinians, especially among the younger generation, should surprise no one. It is hard to imagine that university students or teenagers who grew up in refugee camps and who are now of military age do not express admiration in their day-to-day conversations for the remarkable performance of a microscopic organization like Hezbollah, which has managed to erode the power of mighty Israel to such an extent that the Zionist state wants to get the hell out of Lebanon without delay. And it is easy to imagine that these young people entertain the thought that they have no option but to use force to attain their own goals.

As the frustration increases among the PA's inhabitants, the situation becomes riper for the renewal of Hamas operations and/or a revival of the Intifada. In a private conversation, IDF Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz has already stated that a violent confrontation with the Palestinians, if it breaks out, will not be confined to the hurling of rocks but will move on to bullets and to a casualty count that will be four times the number of Israeli casualties in Lebanon.

Even the American administration and members of the Israeli Cabinet have warned that the abandonment of the Palestinian track in a mad dash for a treaty with Syria could have dangerous consequences.

If we leave the Palestinian Authority for last, Shimon Peres has said, after Egypt, Jordan and Syria have received every square inch of the territories they demanded, we will find it very difficult to get the Palestinians to agree to a deal that will give them only 70 percent of the West Bank.

Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who is focusing all his energies on Syria, has given the Palestinians a low place on his agenda. In an arrogant, know-it-all fashion, he is broadcasting: The Palestinian issue is small potatoes.

While the Palestinians observe, with considerable envy, how Syrian President Hafez Assad is making Barak crawl on his hands and knees and is forcing him to meet Damascus's demands, Barak is humiliating Arafat. Barak is creating the impression that the dispute with the Palestinians is an issue that can be administered, without any attempt to solve it in a fundamental way. At the same time, he is choosing to ignore the fact that security cooperation with the PA is conditional upon there being the light generated by a peace treaty at the end of the tunnel.

The intensification of frustration among the Palestinians will lead to the launching of terrorist attacks. The reason is that the Palestinian problem has always been the heart of the Israeli-Arab dispute. Thus, if we do not reach a peace settlement with the Palestinians, we will never achieve a real peace with any Arab state. The failure to make progress along both tracks (Syrian and Palestinian both) of the peace process is a terrible diplomatic error, for which we may have to pay a heavy price.

Someone on this side of the fence needs to do some hard rethinking and may even have to be shaken up quite vigorously. What we have here is a classic example of a walking time bomb.