< link rel="DCTERMS.isreplacedby" href="http://bokertov.typepad.com/ btb/" >

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Enough?

Jerusalem Post editorial yesterday
Yesterday I tried to hold this blog still for a day, to let it reel in sorrow like the rest of us. And though I think and wish that we all should remain on the floor for longer than we've been able to, there are important decisions to be made. How will we respond to the brutal murders of these Jews in the land of Israel?

From the top of the Israeli government to the most alienated diaspora Jew, each of us forms a response that is part and parcel of the collective response of the Jewish people (whether we like to think so or not). Will we strike out or will we implode? Editors of the Jerusalem Post say that enough is enough, that the "breaking point" has arrived:
The world will not help us; we must help ourselves. We must kill as many of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders as possible, as quickly possible, while minimizing collateral damage, but not letting that damage stop us. And we must kill Yasser Arafat, because the world leaves us no alternative.

No one seriously argues with the fact that Arafat was preventing Mahmoud Abbas, the prime minister he appointed, from combating terrorism, to the extent that was willing to do so. Almost no one seriously disputes that Abbas on whom Israel, the US, and Europe had placed all their bets failed primarily because Arafat retained control of much of the security apparatus, and that Arafat wanted him to fail.

The new prime minister, Ahmed Qurei, clearly will fare no better, since he, if anything, has been trying to garner more power for Arafat, not less.
Under these circumstances, the idea of exiling Arafat is gaining currency, but the standard objection is that he will be as much or more of a problem when free to travel the world than he is locked up in Ramallah.

If only three countries Britain, France, and Germany joined the US in a total boycott of Arafat this would not be the case. If these countries did not speak with Arafat, it would not matter much who did, and however much a local Palestinian leader would claim to consult with Arafat, his power would be gone.

But such a boycott will not happen. Only now, after more than 800 Israelis have died in three years of suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks, has Europe finally decided that Hamas is a terrorist organization. How much longer will it take before it cuts off Arafat? Yet Israel cannot accept a situation in which Arafat blocks any Palestinian break with terrorism, whether from here or in exile. Therefore, we are at another point in our history at which the diplomatic risks of defending ourselves are exceeded by the risks of not doing so.

Such was the case in the Six Day War, when Israel was forced to launch a preemptive attack or accept destruction. And when Menachem Begin decided to bomb the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981. And when Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield in Palestinian cities after the Passover Massacre of 2002. In each case, Israel tried every fashion of restraint, every plea to the international community to take action that would avoid the need for "extreme" measures, all to no avail.

When the breaking point arrives, there is no point in taking half-measures. If we are going to be condemned in any case, we might as well do it right.

Arafat's death at Israel's hands would not radicalize Arab opposition to Israel; just the opposite. The current jihad against us is being fueled by the perception that Israel is blocked from taking decisive action to defend itself.

Arafat's survival and power are a test of the proposition that it is possible to pursue a cause through terror and not have that cause rejected by the international community. Killing Arafat, more than any other act, would demonstrate that the tool of terror is unacceptable, even against Israel, even in the name of a Palestinian state.

Arafat does not just stand for terror, he stands for the refusal to make peace with Israel under any circumstances and within any borders.

In this respect, there is no distinction, beyond the tactical, between him and Hamas. Europe's refusal to utterly reject him condemns Palestinians, no less than Israelis, to endless war and dooms the possibility of the two-state solution the world claims to seek.

While the prospect of a Palestinian power vacuum is feared by some, the worst of all worlds is what exists now: Terrorists attack Israel at will under the umbrella of legitimacy provided by Arafat. Hamas would not be able to fill a post-Arafat vacuum; on the contrary, Hamas would lose the cover it has today.

A word must be said here about the most common claim made by those who would not isolate Arafat, let alone kill him: that he is the elected leader of the Palestinian people. Even if Arafat was chosen in a truly free election (when does his term end?), which we would dispute, this does not close the question of his legitimacy.

Whom the Palestinians choose to lead them is none of our business, provided it is a free choice, and provided they do not opt for leaders who choose terror and aggression. So long as the Palestinians choose such a leadership, it should be held no more immune to counterattack by Israel than the Taliban and Saddam Hussein were by the United States.

We complain that a double standard is applied to us, and it is. But we cannot complain when we apply that double standard to ourselves. Arafat's survival, under our watchful eyes, is living testimony to our tolerance of that double standard. If we want another standard to be applied, we must begin by applying it ourselves.


DEBKA headline: Israeli special forces troops encircle Arafat’s government headquarters in Ramallah Thursday

Israeli soldiers occupy a building close to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
The US and the EU have warned Israel off moves to expel Arafat from the Palestinian territories. (AFP/File/Jamal Aruri)