Sharon's Provocative Missiles

jacdon at jacdon at
Fri Aug 2 14:54:20 MDT 2002

The following article is from the Aug. 1, 2002, issue of the email
Mid-Hudson Activist Newsletter, published by the Mid-Hudson National
People's Campaign/IAC, in New Paltz, NY, jacdon at

Several times in recent months, just when it appears a breakthrough
might be possible in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict because of one or
another proposal or concession by an Arab country or the Palestinian
side, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has ordered the Israeli army to carry
out a significant assassination or bomb or invade Palestinian

In November, for instance, when it appeared some form progress might be
possible, Sharon ordered the assassination of the leader of Hamas,
provoking the Islamic fundamentalist organization to launch a new round
of suicide attacks in retaliation.   In February, Sharon's reply to a
new peace proposal from Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah was to attack West
Bank and Gaza refugee camps and cities. (Abdullah's plan called for
peace and diplomatic recognition of Israel by Saudi Arabia and other
Arab states in return for Israel's withdrawal from Palestinian
territories occupied since the 1967 war and the transformation of the
Palestinian territories into a state.)  In late March, as the Arab
League met to approve of the Saudi plan and pledge to recognize Israel,
Sharon launched his invasion of the West Bank.

Sharon's right-wing Likud-dominated coalition government did it again
July 23 -- destroying a possible step toward peace by ordering an
Israeli jet to fire a powerful missile into a building in Gaza, one of
the most crowded cities in the world.  The missile killed its target, a
Hamas military leader named Sheik Salah Shehada, but also blew to pieces
14 innocent people, including 9 children, wounding some 150.

The assault took place just after the Israeli government learned that
Tanzim -- an important militia group associated with Palestinian
Authority President Yasir Arafat's Fatah organization -- was preparing
to announce a unilateral cease-fire.  In addition, Hamas was reported
ready to consider some form of reduction in its attacks to see where the
Tanzim initiative would lead.  Other factions were also reported willing
to observe a cease-fire to test the waters.

Upon learning of the missile's devastation, Sharon initially told the
press that "This action, to my knowledge, is one of our major
successes."  Skeptics interpreted this to mean that the Tanzim
cease-fire initiative was just as dead as the Hamas leader. Within
hours, as international condemnation mounted, Sharon stopped gloating in
public and the government issued its regrets at the loss of civilian
lives.  Palestinian analysts and progressive Israeli critics of Sharon's
policies alike argued that the attack appeared intended to scuttle the
possibility of peace talks resulting from the Tanzim initiative.  Even
some sources traditionally supportive of Sharon's military actions, such
as the daily newspaper Maariv, expressed suspicion that the missile
attack was conceived to intentionally prevent movement toward a cease
fire.  The Israeli government denied sabotaging the initiative on the
grounds that (to quote the New York Times) they "knew from bitter
experience that the talks would go nowhere."

Virtually all the nations of the world, backed by a sizable portion of
Israeli public opinion, support the concept of a separate Palestinian
state in return for peace and security guarantees for Israel -- except
for the present Likud government, which for right-wing and religious
reasons ("God gave us Israel") desires to occupy much of the remaining
territory where Palestinians continue to reside.  Even the Bush
administration claims adherence to the creation of a Palestinian state,
but it advocates such an entity only under the condition that Arafat is
immediately and "democratically" replaced by a Palestinian government
acceptable (and thus subordinate) to both the U.S. and Israel.
Washington, at Jerusalem's request, is now playing down the notion of
democratic elections since it is probable that Arafat will be reelected
in a landslide, gaining support even from anti-Arafat elements within
the Palestinian community that refuse to capitulate to dictates from
Sharon and Bush.

Sharon's tactic is to prolong the colonial status quo until the
Palestinians are sufficiently weakened by military assaults, political
manipulation from Washington, poverty, desperation and whatever internal
dissension Israel can create and exploit, that they accept highly
disadvantageous terms in any peace settlement.  Likud, for example,  has
no intention of divesting the Palestinian territories of hundreds of
thousands of armed Israeli settlers.  And it simply rejects the creation
of a new state.

The Likud government is hardly unaware that the majority of Israeli
public opinion may in time swing  toward supporting a government willing
to coexist with a Palestinian state.   Likud is counting on two
developments to continue uniting the Israeli majority behind its
leadership:  (1) the U.S.-Israeli demand that Arafat be ousted, which
will delay talks indefinitely, and (2) on the mass fear of  suicide
bombings within Israel.   Politically, the terror attacks bind the
Israeli majority to the rejectionist Likud coalition. In the process,
the Sharon government exploits Israeli fears by blaming the moderate
Arafat leadership for the suicide attacks when they are carried out by
opposing Palestinian factions. The more the present Palestinian
leadership can be associated with the terror bombings, the less the
chance of a settlement Likud opposes.

Another means of undercutting the chances of such a settlement is
Sharon's practice of engaging in provocative assassinations and military
adventures, such as the Gaza missile attack, whenever it appears the
Palestinian side is preparing to take new initiatives that might attract
international support or influence the Israeli electorate.  Likud's
biggest fear is that genuine peace talks and honest negotiations will
lead to overwhelming domestic and international pressure to withdraw the
settlers to Israel proper,  and to the eventual creation of a viable
state of Palestine.  (end)

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