Reprinted from The Jerusalem Post of July 24, 1997
(July 24) - Binyamin Netanyahu has been talking tough these past few days, using "harsh words" as he "slammed Arafat's police terrorism." He wants the arrest of Brig.-Gen. Ghazi Jabali for ordering his police commandos to kill Israelis at Har Bracha, close to Nablus.
Sternly, Netanyahu warns Arafat to desist from fomenting the Hebron rioting, which is "unacceptable." Netanyahu's fellow kitchenette chef, Foreign Minister David Levy, threatened not to meet with Arafat in Brussels unless he "uprooted terrorist elements." The government was bold enough to list all Arafat's breaches of promise, including his obligation to extradite murderers of Jews, many of whom serve in the PA's galaxy of armed militias.
Also spelled out were the broken promises about amending the PLO Charter which calls for the destruction of the Jewish state. During a private meeting, Hosni Mubarak and King Hussein once told Yitzhak Rabin that Arafat was "a pathological liar."
For a moment or two, one almost believed that Netanyahu's warnings were for real. And maybe, just maybe a chastised Arafat would cease instigating violence. Harsh reality quickly set in. No sooner was Arafat in Brussels than a beautifully coiffed Levy was warmly shaking his hand. "Great strides in sweetening the bitterness of the past five months of acrimony" was how the two beaming men described their discussions.
Agriculture and Environment Minister Rafael Eitan decided to go and check things out on the ground. Flying over Gaza in a small aircraft he was shocked by what he saw. He returned with a bunch of aerial photographs, which he displayed at last Sunday's cabinet meeting. There was no need for comment. Prominently featured was the frantic building of a massive breakwater for Arafat's future port. Also visible was a plant turning out the massive concrete blocks needed for such a major enterprise.
Eitan turned investigative reporter to prove that Arafat was engaging in yet another violation: He was not building his port on the site agreed with Israel, but in a Palestinian-controlled area where Israeli inspection would be virtually impossible. Does it matter if Arafat builds a port? Yes. It is vital to his plans. He exploited Beirut's port in the late '70s and early '80s, importing vast quantities of weapons and building up a sophisticated military machine in southern Lebanon. He even smuggled in heavy tanks.
To dodge Lebanese customs he had the tanks dismantled, crated and reassembled in his military camps. This suggests that as soon as his Gaza breakwater is completed, Arafat will be poised to import anything he likes, with no controls whatsoever. And any Israeli attempt to stop vessels on the way to Gaza and check their cargoes will certainly prompt a major anti-Israel onslaught in the UN.
Eitan's evidence points to just one more example of a direct breach of Arafat's agreements with Israel. Only a simpleton would suggest that Netanyahu and his defense minister don't know what is going on in Gaza. Israel has a high-powered intelligence service, and its own satellite which could, if needed, provide a precision photograph of the number plates of Saddam Hussein's car.
So Netanyahu and Yitzhak Mordechai surely also know that Arafat has already completed a terminal for his airport which will make it difficult, if not impossible, for Israel to inspect who comes and goes, something originally laid down by Jerusalem.
According to diplomatic sources, all this has been swallowed without demur by the prime minister and his two close confidantes, Levy and Mordechai. Despite all Netanyahu's recent huffing and puffing, it is clear that he is persistently turning a blind eye to Arafat's contemptuous disregard of every agreement he has made, just like the previous government.
Without a word being said to the public, concession after concession is being made almost daily to Arafat, despite Netanyahu's "anger." For instance, in a bid not to sour the intensive negotiations going on quietly in the background between Israel and the Palestinians, it was agreed that Jerusalem would accede to Arafat's latest request for yet another batch of terrorist convicts serving terms in Israeli prisons to be quietly released. This, despite clear evidence that among the activists in Hamas's employ - and in Arafat's militias - are prisoners who were released on the strength of signed documents stating that they would no longer engage in terror.
When Arafat protested about the Israeli authorities holding up a cargo of sophisticated electronic equipment needed for his port and airport, Israel agreed to release the cargo. When Arafat complained about the difficulty of transporting individuals from Gaza to the West Bank - since not all of them drive.