Israel Resource Review 12th April, 2002


The Iraqi Factor in the Powell Visit
Professor Eitan Gilboa

Part of Powell's efforts to attain a cease-fire are an American performance meant to neutralize pressure by the Arab countries and Europe on the US to use all its power to stop the mounting violence. The truth is, had it not been for the American wish to bring down the regime of Saddam Hussein, it is doubtful whether Powell would even have come to the Middle East.

The US is trying to recruit the Arab countries for a military action against Iraq, but they say that as long as there is no end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is nothing to talk about. However, even if there were no such confrontation, or if it ended tomorrow, the US would still not receive the desired support.

The Powell mission has internal American aspects. It is understood that if he fails in his mission to attain a cease-fire, this would harm the image and standing of the US in the Middle East as well as elsewhere. However, there are certain people in the administration who would not weep at his stumbling, as he opposed in the past as well as today any use of power, including the plan to strike at Saddam Hussein.

The ability of the Bush administration to increase pressure on Israel is limited, in the light of the war the United States itself is waging against terror. The administration is sensitive to the issue of the time necessary for the completion of a military operation. Bush's people, who served in his father's administration, are aware of the fact that Bush senior did not finish up the Gulf War as was necessary and that today the US has to live with the consequences of this. When Sharon says that he cannot stop the Israeli military activity until it achieves its targets, the memory of the unfinished Gulf War comes up and works in favor of the Israeli position.

Recently, Bush himself as well as his people have been giving varying messages stemming from contradictions and constraints in the US position vis a vis the Palestinian-Israeli violence. The administration sees Arafat as the one directing and encouraging the terror, but outwardly describes him as a legitimate leader. Bush affirms Israel's right to defend itself, and on the other hand calls on Israel immediately to withdraw its forces from the territories. All sides, not only Israel, are not acting according to American demands. And Bush is angry, not only at Sharon, but also with Arafat, who is not doing anything against the terror, and at Arab leaders, who are not pressuring him in this matter.

Thus the American room to maneuver is quite limited.

This article ran in Maariv on April 12th, 2002

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Th Battle in Jenin: An Assessment
Amir Rappaport and Roni Shaked
Correspondents, Yediot Ahronot

The battle for the UNRWA Jenin refugee camp ended yesterday morning. Seven days of fighting -- among the hardest the IDF has known in recent years -- ended with 36 wanted men who laid down their arms, came out of their bullet-ridden houses, and marched with hands raised towards the troops outside. The most senior of the wanted men who surrendered was Sheikh Ali Sfori, the "suicide bomber sender.

Sfori is responsible for terror attacks in which nine Israelis were murdered and more than 150 wounded.

The 36 wanted men, who at first declared they would fight to the last bullet, surrendered at the end of lengthy negotiations and after they were promised they would not be hurt when they came out. The Palestinians claimed that the IDF threatened that if they did not turn themselves in, the buildings would be demolished on top of them. Another seven armed men turned themselves in last night.

Only after the surrender did it become known that under the compound where the armed were holing up was a network of underground tunnels. It was by means of these tunnels that the armed men could move about the refugee camp and keep fighting the IDF. Brig. Gen. Eyal Shlein, the commander of the reserve division that waged the battle in the Jenin area, said last night that there may still be more attempts to shoot at soldiers. However, Shlein stressed: "The goals of the operation in the camp were reached in their entirety. All the armed men were either caught or killed. A great deal of weapons and explosive material were seized. Suicide bombers who had already prepared farewell tapes and were about to leave to commit terror attacks in Israel were also caught".

The price of this victory was heavy for the IDF: 23 soldiers killed, 15 of them reservists.

The extent of the destruction in the refugee camp was enormous: all of the infrastructure in the camp no longer exists, and there is almost no house that was not damaged. The IDF broke through the narrow alleyways and blazed roads wide enough for tanks to pass. By means of these roads it could reach everywhere in the camp, which was redivided into three areas. "Children are looking for their parents among the ruins. There are entire families who cannot find their homes, which were blown up by the terrorists or which were destroyed by the army," soldiers said.

Yesterday morning the IDF allowed the residents of the camp to bury their dead. Around 100 bodies were brought to be buried in the camp area, but there still may be many bodies buried under the ruins of the houses and their recovery will continue today. OC Central Command Maj. Gen. Yitzhak Eitan ordered that the bodies be buried so that the harsh sight not be photographed and broadcast all over the world, and so that disease not spread. Jenin has become a myth in the last few days in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Dozens of women in Gaza who recently gave birth gave their children the name "Jenin", in solidarity with the besieged refugee camp.

Television stations last night broadcast harsh testimony of the camp residents. "They swept up the shahids in bulldozers and dumped them into the sewage, so that the journalists would not see them" a Palestinian woman said. In contrast, Israeli sources said that "there was no massacre, but a very hard battle because the terrorists refused to surrender".

Brig. Gen. Shlein accused the Palestinians of wreaking the destruction: "They rigged the camp completely. Civilians were also hurt because they sent their children and wives to be used as human shields. Children placed the bombs and held weapons".

A senior army source said yesterday that of the 4,185 people arrested in Operation Protective Wall, there were 60 senior wanted men. 30 of them have "blood on their hands", i.e. were personally involved in terror attacks. Approximately 15 additional wanted men were killed in battle.

The IDF also continued to operate yesterday in Ramallah, Nablus, Bethlehem and some towns and villages in the West Bank. In Dahariya in the Hebron area, soldiers searched the prison, but did not find any wanted men. Searches were also made in Bir Zeit in the Ramallah area and in the Ein Bit Ilma refugee camp near Nablus. 400 Palestinians were arrested there, some of them armed.

Itzik Saban adds: An IDF force last night killed a terrorist who tried to infiltrate the settlement of Elei Sinai in the northern Gaza Strip. Searches continued in the area until last night due to concern of more terrorists.

Yossi Bar in Rome adds: The Vatican yesterday asked Israel to promise not to kill the Palestinians holed up in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem when they leave. The Vatican has asked that the Palestinians there be allowed to go to Gaza.

This article ran in Yediot Ahronot on April 12th, 2002

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If the IDF Withdraws, Will the Tanzim Enter?
Alex Fishman
Correspondent, Yediot Ahronot

Arafat, in his besieged bureau, continues to work. It's important to him to display a sight of a working PA, someone to talk to. Mohammed Dahlan and Mohammed Rashid are in Ramallah, outside the besieged bureau, busy transferring money. There is no need for meetings and discussions. This is a small staff, which understands the rais, even by a wink.

However odd it sounds, the Palestinian leadership has not changed and is not about to change. The same faces, the same names. The people sitting with Arafat in his office are enjoying it, earning glory for participating in the fighting. General Haj Ismail, commander of the Palestinian army on the West Bank, who fled from Lebanon in '82 when the IDF invaded, could have lost his entire world this time. Luckily, he happened to be in Arafat's office, and since he's there, has stayed glued to him.

In the future, the Palestinian side will make an accounting of who was where during the war. In any case, the real stars produced by the fighting are the local Tanzim leaders, who conducted the fighting in practice in the various cities. Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti, in contrast, will have to answer some hard questions. For example, was his disappearance indeed necessary the entire time. Jibril Rajoub will have to work hard to restore his image, after his men surrendered in his headquarters.

The same name, the same faces, while the PA administration, the people under the faces, has fallen apart. The computer system has been destroyed. The population registry, for example, no longer exists. Taxes cannot be collected. The security organizations have been scattered, some of the people arrested. [ . . . ]

The real victor in the present fighting are the Tanzim, and it is they who will set the agenda for the day after. If Arafat wants, ever, to stop the terror, this will only be by means of the Tanzim. Already now they have taken the place of the security organizations, and run matters in the field, although it does not have an authoritative central leadership, only local leaders. Each leadership has its own agenda, which does not necessary conform to Arafat's.

Powell Will Get Only Gestures

When the security cabinet met to discuss Powell's visit, there were two issues that were left without an answer: when the IDF leaves the territories, to whom will it leave security responsibility? The second: how do we move on from there to diplomatic talks?

As to the first question, the sense among the top political and security echelons is that Israel will have to talk with the local Tanzim commanders, and reach understandings with them.

Powell's visit will not end the operation. The Israeli decision, at the moment, is to lower the IDF's profile a bit, to leave most of the places where it's possible, and in the cities where it is not possible, to try and at least leave the city centers, or cancel the curfew. These are gestures for the three days Powell is here and it is very likely we will have to pay for these gestures. When Zinni came similar gestures were made, and Israel suffered 126 casualties in terror attacks.

Powell's visit is liable to end in failure, firstly because of the fact that the Palestinians don't believe the Americans. Last year senior PA officials went to Cairo for talks with Mubarak and the Egyptian leadership. They were given a seminar in the history of reality. The Egyptians demanded, demonstratively, that the PA cooperate with Powell and reach an arrangement with him. They spoke of a gradual process of stabilization and quiet, the implementation of the Zinni plan, while getting European and American aid for rehabilitating the PA administration and its security organizations.

The Israeli security establishment believes that Powell will at most succeed in bringing Arafat to discuss a cease-fire, but without any commitment to fight terror and stop the terror attacks. In discussions held this week with Zinni's people, Israel demanded that Powell at least show Arafat the Zinni document, which Sharon has already accepted. Israel does not imagine that the secretary of state will completely ignore what his envoy did, especially since the Zinni document, unlike the Tenet document, is operative, and deals with the battle against terror. There are three principles in the Zinni document, leading to a cease-fire and to a war on terror: arrests, confiscating illegal weapons and dealing with terror infrastructure. It details the stages and the timetables, including how the various charity organizations should be handled, the mosque cells, the terror budgets, its bank accounts. Arafat rejected this before Operation Protective Wall and will not accept it now. The Tanzim will certainly not accept it.

Regardless of what Israel does or doesn't do, we are going to clash with the Americans. Powell's arrival reflects a dramatic, fundamental change that Washington's approach underwent last week to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is not just another trip to see what's going on, to spread a little cosmetics. For the first time the Bush administration has a strategy for the Middle East, making it possible to compare Powell's visit to the quality visits of Kissinger in their time.

The change took place when Vice President Cheney returned from his visit to the region and made it clear to the president that any attempt to separate the Iraqi issue form the Palestinian one was impossible. No Arab coalition could be enlisted to keep quiet over the American attack on Iraq if the US could not be shown to be concerned about the Palestinian issue and to be doing something. Cheney also told the president that instability in Egypt and Jordan was no longer theoretical. [ . . . ]

This article ran in Yediot Ahronot on April 12th, 2002

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