|Israel Resource Review
||17th August, 1999
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Within the Framework of
the "Rules of the Game"
Analysis by Alex Fishman
17th August, 1999
Hizballah is liable to look for revenge by "selectively
firing" Katyushas, attempting headline-grabbing
attacks in southern Lebanon in the coming days or by
concentrated attacks on IDF and SLA positions.
The elimination of military leaders has been part of the
rules of the game in southern Lebanon for years. More
than this -- it is a permanent and mutual policy.
Israel and Hizballah routinely gather information on each
others' commanders, and constantly search for ways to
hit at them. Only two weeks ago, pictures and names of
IDF commanders were discovered in a Hizballah cache
in the western part of the security zone. These pictures,
it should be noted, were not being gathered for the
historical record. Hizballah commanders constantly
change their routes and check their cars, out of fear of
explosive devices. They know very well that they are
potential targets for assassination.
In a war like that being conducted in southern Lebanon,
the assassination of a military commander has much
greater moral and operational significance than in other
forms of combat, and both sides know this. When
Hizballah killed Brigadier-General Erez Gerstein, they
saw this, according to their public declarations, as a
legitimate operation within the "Grapes of Wrath"
understandings. The fact that Hassan Salameh, killed
yesterday, was a senior military commander, connected
to the second level of the organisation's hierarchy -- was
not apparently sufficient to stop the heads of the
organisation from threatening revenge.
A different possible form of Hizballah response might
have been to have fired Katyushas at unpopulated areas,
and to have tested the Israeli response. If firing of this
kind was carried out, and the IDF did not respond in line
with the norm set on June 24 (when the IAF attacked
infrastructure targets in Lebanon) -- then Israel would
suffer serious strategic damage, and would return to the
same low point in its deterrent capacity at which it stood
prior to those attacks.
If not by Katyushas, -- the Hizballah will seek its
revenge through a large-scale terrorist attack in southern
Lebanon in the coming days, or in a concentrated attack
on IDF and SLA positions.
The order of the day in Israeli policy in Lebanon is to
maintain quiet. The elimination of a senior military
commander, which is liable to set the area ablaze with
fighting, does not exactly jibe with the possibility of
starting a dialogue with the Syrians. But because Israel
did not take responsibility for the assassination, the issue
of the prudence behind the action is not, as it were, on
Return to Contents
Exercises in the Art of War
by Ron Ben Yishai
Yediot Ahronot, Weekend Supplement
13th August, 1999
The Chairman of the Palestinian Authority is nervous
and speaks aggressively. Hamas and the activists get
the hint: He will not oppose a little "pressure" on
Israel, which will also press the Americans. The
result: Modest attacks, such as the ones this week.
The relative security that Israel has enjoyed during
the past year is not guaranteed. Barak to Arafat:
Israel will not negotiate under the shadow of
Arafat is under pressure these days. A great deal of
pressure, say security sources who know well what goes
on in the Palestinian Authority. He had developed a
high level of expectations regarding Ehud Barak and
now is not certain if they will be realized. Sharp
criticism has been leveled against him from both the
Arab world and from within the Palestinian ranks, and it
seems that even the Americans have cooled their
relationship with him. As always, when Arafat is
anxious, nervous and angry, the Palestinian "street"
wakes up and begins rioting and committing acts of
violence. The same sources are quick to clarify that
Arafat is not the man who directly initiated the wave of
Palestinian violence that began this month and is now
gaining strength. But the recent angry and warlike
statements of the Rais and senior Palestinian officials
signaled to both Hamas leaders and Fatah street activists
(the Hawks) that "modest physical pressure" on Israel
will not harm, and may even help, the Palestinian
Authority in the present critical period.
Arafat has done nothing to correct this impression, even
after it became perfectly clear that the terrorist
organizations and violent institutions loyal to the
Palestinian Authority -- those who were under its iron
control during the period of the election and government
formation -- had resumed their activities. Arafat and his
security chiefs know well that they are riding a tiger that
is hard to control. They are aware of the fact that the
recent shootings in Samaria and Hebron were carried
out by Hamas personnel, who were sent by their
organization to torpedo the revitalized peace process.
This objective appears to be against Arafat's general
interest which actually wants the process to go forward.
But it seems that the PA Chairman believes that low-
level violence is useful in order to hint to the Israeli
government and public opinion what could happen on
the ground should Wye not be implemented in both
spirit and deed, and in order to create a feeling of
urgency in the American administration.
Therefore, Arafat is not sending his security chiefs to
carry out effective pre-emptive strikes against the local
cells. However, the security forces and
counterintelligence service do continue to aggressively
attack Hamas' professional hard-core in order to prevent
mass terrorist attacks which could halt the peace process
in its tracks.
Approximately two months ago, a senior security official
sent an unequivocal message directly from Barak to
Arafat, according to which Israel will not agree to
implement the Wye accord or continue negotiations on
the permanent settlement under the pressure of
terrorism. Arafat believes the message, but he continues
to try to walk a fine line.
The division of labor is clear enough: The shootings in
Samaria and Hebron are carried out by local Hamas
cells, so that Arafat can disclaim any responsibility for
their actions, without trouble; the violent demonstrations
at Netzarim junction, in Hebron and at Joseph's Tomb in
Nablus are carried out by the Fatah Hawks, who, while
belonging to the organization that Arafat heads, have
their own leadership which criticizes Arafat's policies,
thus enabling him to disclaim direct responsibility for
their actions as well.
In the event that these demonstrations get out of
control, Arafat can show magnanimity towards Israel,
and order his police to disperse them without great
effort. This is how he has acted in recent weeks, with
not a little success from his point of view.
What is now happening on the ground is the exact dose
that Arafat prescribes: Sporadic and not very
professional or effective operations mostly carried out
against settlers or IDF forces in the territories. That is
enough to send a message.
But we have seen a clear escalating trend this week.
There were two attacks Tuesday, including the
deliberate running-over of soldiers at Nahshon Junction
inside the State of Israel's territory. The conclusion is
that if the disputes between Barak and Arafat continue
or even worsen, one can expect a parallel intensification
of the violence in the territories in their current format.
A Militia Army
According to Israeli analysts, Arafat has never neglected
the use of violence and terrorism as a lever to advance
his goals. The results of the 1996 elections, which
raised Netanyahu to power, taught him that terrorism
could become a two-edged sword that hurts him and
prevents him from achieving his political goals.
Therefore, he is careful now, and sends out his security
apparatus to collect intelligence and to foil specific
initiatives by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad to commit
His forces have reaped successes in this field recently.
Security cooperation with Israel is generally quite good,
for the same reason and same objective. But at the same
time, Arafat is careful not to destroy Hamas'
infrastructure so that it can be used -- if necessary -- as a
strategic weapon of terrorism.
Arafat regards the suicide bombers who carry explosives
on their bodies into the heart of population centers the
same way that Syria and Iran regard their ballistic
missiles -- as a strategic weapon, to be used against the
Israeli civilian homefront if the Palestinians' strategic
interests are in danger. He will use this weapon if and
when he concludes that Israel is preventing him from
establishing the Palestinian state more or less in the
format that is acceptable to him. When the Hamas
infrastructure is at issue, the intention is the
organization's social, economic and religious activities
which enable its leaders to recruit fighters and send them
for training abroad.
Alongside the suicide terrorism, which is Arafat's
strategic weapon, the PA Chairman has a fighting force
which can be activated for guerrilla warfare. What is
called the "Palestinian National Police" is in fact a militia
army that can be used against settlements, roads and
IDF bases in the territories. The fighting that broke out
after the opening of the Western Wall Tunnel in
September 1996 shows what these forces can do. The
IDF is prepared for such an eventuality, and has fortified
the settlements, but if Arafat decides to use this option it
could claim many victims from both sides.
Four factors are behind Arafat's current distress, causing
him to drift towards renewed violence. First, he is
concerned that Barak is a more sophisticated version of
Netanyahu -- he speaks nicely but does not intend to
carry out the Wye agreements as written and prefers the
Syrian channel over the peace process with the
Palestinians. Senior PA officials have claimed to Israelis
with whom they have met, that, "We gave Israel security
during the elections, enabling Barak to be elected, and
now you prefer the Syrians to us." The hint was that
only one mass terrorist attack would be enough for
Israel to put the Palestinians back at the top of the
The second factor for Arafat's feeling of distress is the
fact that the American administration, at Barak's
request, has abandoned its role as mediator and judge of
Israeli-Palestinian relations, and has returned to the role
of assistant. This is a retreat, from Arafat's perspective,
and is costing him an important lever of pressure on
Israel. During the Netanyahu government, Arafat took
care to restrain Hamas mainly in order to protect the
special relationship he developed with Washington.
Now he fears that his relations with Washington have
returned to their earlier format, and this is what might
cause him to lose his motivation to fight terrorism.
The third factor is the venomous criticism directed at
Arafat from Arab countries like Syria, Libya and Iran as
well, and of course from the Palestinian opposition.
This is occurring at the same time that he is trying to
bring about a reconciliation with the Palestinian
rejectionist front in order to build a united front for the
fateful permanent settlement negotiations. The
reconciliation is vital for him in order to block the
charge that he does not represent all Palestinians, thus
limiting his negotiating flexibility.
The pressure on him is enormous, say the analysts. The
economic situation in the territories is not improving, the
Fatah field operatives are angry with him because he
gave the important and income-generating offices to his
close associates from Tunis, and only gave them the
leftovers. This is why the Hawks are challenging his
rule and carrying out operations that anger him.
Arafat is in a Hurry
In light of all this, Arafat feels he has to hurry. He feels
that his position in the territories is weakening, and that
if he does not declare a Palestinian state by May 2000,
he might miss the train and not achieve his dream to be
the first president of an independent Palestinian state.
Hamas, under the leadership of Sheikh Yassin, would
build on his ruins. Hamas has so far avoided a frontal
conflict with Arafat, but it is gradually building up its
There can be no doubt that the joint operations of the
GSS and the Palestinian security forces have recently
struck hard at Hamas' operational ability. The
organization's military ability has also been weakened
due to internal conflict between Sheikh Yassin and its
leaders in the territories, and between the organization's
leaders in Jordan, Dr. Mussa Abu-Marzouk and Khaled
Masha'al, and Imad al-'Alami who operate from
Damascus and Lebanon.
The Hawk's leaders also oppose the establishment of a
Palestinian state according to Arafat's formula, and want
to carry out attacks to torpedo the peace process and
force Israel to surrender under the pressure of violence.
Yassin knows that if Hamas operates on this principle, it
could drag Arafat into a war to destroy him, and cause
the majority of the population -- which supports Arafat's
policy goals -- to resist him. He therefore prefers build
his economic and political power and to wait for the
moment when Hamas will inherit the PA's political
apparatus and what it has won from Israel. Then it can
continue the struggle to establish an Islamic state in the
entire land of Palestine.
Hamas in the territories is obeying Yassin for now, and
the organization's leaders abroad are therefore trying to
build a model for operations in the territories based on
secret, isolated and separate cells, who receive their
orders directly from Amman and Damascus. They are
also trying to give these cells the operational ability to
carry out attacks using material, means and methods not
used by Palestinian terrorists up till now, and which will
enable them to carry out mass attacks inside Israeli
territory. For this purpose, they are sending terrorists
from the territories to Iran to learn new operational
methods, and they even pay the Iranians for this service.
One cell of this type has already been caught by the GSS
and its members put on trial.
An additional important source of power for the militant
Hamas is the prisoners held in Israeli jails. A very senior
official recently noted that the control in Israeli prisons
is, in practice, held by security prisoners. This permits
them to direct and initiate terrorist attacks and street
violence from inside the jails, with the primary objective
of pressuring Israel to release Hamas prisoners without
regard to whether they have blood on their hands or not.
In light of these facts, it can be concluded that the
relative security Israel has enjoyed during the past year
is not guaranteed. It is reasonable to assume that for a
little while -- mainly during the permanent settlement
negotiations -- we are likely to face a wave of
Palestinian violence and terrorism, far more serious and
dangerous that which we have witnessed up until now.
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Did Anyone Hear 'Jihad'?
Editorial: The Jewish Week
of the Jewish Federation of NYC
13th August, 1999
Did Anyone Hear 'Jihad'?
The problem is not a new one: Palestinian leaders purport to seek peace
with Israel but their actions suggest otherwise.
The question is how to respond, as when Yasir Arafat speaks in moderate
tones to Western officials and reporters and then calls for jihad, or
holy war, when addressing Arab audiences.
In the first several years after the signing of the Oslo Accords between
the Palestinians and Israelis, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres tended to
either not respond or to dismiss the Palestinian leader's rhetoric as
simply that - words - while insisting that he be judged on his actions.
The trouble was, Arafat's actions were often deeply problematic. The
Palestinian Authority flagrantly violated key aspects of the accords -
giving terrorists safe haven, exceeding the limit of the Palestinian
police force and failing to curb anti-Israel propaganda on television
and in schools. But the Israeli government was so intent on moving
negotiations along that it looked the other way, until a series of
terrorist attacks wrecked the momentum.
For the next three years, Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized the need for
reciprocity, pointing out numerous and flagrant Palestinian violations
of the agreement with Israel. These were cited as the basis for
Jerusalem's unwillingness to carry out some of its Oslo pledges.
Neither approach was effective. Ignoring Arafat's words and actions only
emboldened him, and coming down hard on him spoiled Israel's relations
with the U.S. as well as the Arab world.
Last week, with a new Israeli prime minister in place operating on
overdrive in trying to improve the negotiating climate, Arafat
celebrated his 70th birthday by calling for jihad against the state and
people of Israel, and praising "the children of the stones," the
instigators of the deadly intifada. So much for extending the olive
But there are indications that despite Ehud Barak's goal of concluding a
peace deal with the Palestinians, he is not willing to tolerate such
behavior. A senior Israeli army official held a briefing with the press
in Israel the other day and criticized Arafat's behavior. (Washington
had no comment on the latest Arafat flare-up, after cautioning him
repeatedly against such volatile talk.) Further, the Israeli official,
who did not speak for attribution, accused the Palestinians of providing
safe haven for terrorists and doing little to prevent further attacks or
to confiscate weapons. David Bedein, a media researcher in Israel, noted
that it was the first time in the last six years that a high-ranking
Israeli army official convened a press conference to put the
Palestinians on call in this manner, accusing them of "planting the
seeds of war."
The impression is that Barak seems to be holding firm on security issues
while seeking to advance the peace process. It's a delicate balance, one
that has not worked until now.
On Tuesday, in wake of a Palestinian youth's would-be suicide mission -
he was shot dead after trying to run over a group of Israeli soldiers -
Barak did not accuse the Palestinian Authority of duplicity, or lax
security. Instead, he said the incident strengthened Israel's resolve to
cooperate with Palestinian security officials to prevent terrorism.
Whether Barak can walk the fine line of insisting on reciprocity while
going forward on negotiations remains to be seen, but it is clear that
this issue is of critical importance to the future of the peace process.
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