The Jerusalem Post


By Uri Dan

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon gave US Secretary of State Colin Powell the reasons that caused his government to decide, unanimously, to completely isolate Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat in Ramallah. The long conversation took place last Saturday night, two days after a Palestinian suicide bomber slaughtered six passengers on bus No. 4 and injured another 60 in Tel Aviv.

"We shall not permit the Palestinians to continue murdering Jews, at the same time telling us they are introducing reforms," said the prime minister.

"Several countries have expressed concern to us and wanted to know why we are destroying the buildings in the Mukata, Arafat's headquarters. But not one wanted to know about the victim of the attack opposite the Great Synagogue in Tel Aviv who complained to a nurse in the hospital that he couldn't feel his hand. The nurse lifted the blanket and told him he had lost his hand. None of those who contacted us about the bulldozers took any interest in the innocent citizen whose head was blown off in the terrorist attack."

Sharon told Powell that it would be easier and faster for Israel to send its troops to the Mukata and extract the Palestinian terrorists by force. However, he explained, Israel preferred to use the bulldozer to save as many lives as possible. The operation could be ended rapidly, he said, if all the international pressure were directed at the leader of the terrorism, Arafat, in order to make him hand over the wanted terrorists.

Powell's concern in his phone call to Sharon was understandable. The US had succeeded in recruiting impressive support for its plan that the Palestinians elect a prime minister who would direct their affairs – one who would in fact replace Arafat and be as far as possible from his sphere of influence. In the State Department's view, this was a strategic achievement.

But in Israel's view, Palestinian terrorism itself – during the last two years of the war initiated by Arafat – has become a threat that is also strategic.

Not prepared to let Arafat renew with full force the waves of terrorism that were reduced following Operation Defensive Shield in April, Sharon's concern is no less understandable. He is not prepared for Jews to pay with their blood in the interval until the Palestinians reform.

Sharon is also not prepared for Jews to continue to be murdered while Israel sits on its hands because of the approaching war against Arafat's partner, Saddam Hussein. It would be neither morally nor diplomatically justifiable to wait to deal with Arafat until it can be done amid the fog of battle in Baghdad.

After Hamas assumed responsibility for last week's slaughter in Tel Aviv, the media rushed to announce that Sharon had convened a security-cabinet meeting with the participation of the entire government in order to take a decision to attack Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

BUT SHARON is experienced enough not to fall into Hamas's dangerous trap, particularly after Israeli military correspondents alerted Hamas to the fact that the IDF would attack. Thus, after preliminary agreement with Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Sharon brought to the cabinet meeting an objective that contained the element of surprise. The movement of IDF tanks and bulldozers toward Arafat's HQ came as a complete shock.

Arafat had done nothing to halt the terrorist offensive. On the contrary, he encouraged it – with the total cooperation of the wanted terrorists to whom he has given protection. But he was tempted to believe that Israel wouldn't dare to renew the siege against him, and so he gave those terrorists refuge.

The bulldozers didn't begin the systematic destruction of the remains of Arafat's kingdom in Ramallah until the government had been persuaded to unanimously approve the prime minister's proposal. To his credit, even Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, Arafat's 1994 Nobel Peace Prize partner, supported it.

Certain members of the media attempted to create a distorted picture, as if the razing of the Mukata and the isolation of Arafat would produce no benefit. They claimed Sharon had actually enhanced Arafat's status, when in fact it had already hit rock bottom.

"Sharon saved Arafat" was the headline of an article in Ha'aretz by Danny Rubinstein, a veteran PLO sympathizer. Anchorman Amnon Abramowitz on Channel 1 said that "Arafat has been given artificial respiration" by Israel." Yoram Binur on Channel 2 interviewed Palestinians who insisted Arafat would remain their leader forever. Kol Yisrael announcer Carmit Gai mockingly inquired about the connection between disconnecting the air conditioners in Arafat's offices and the war against terrorism, and asked why Sharon wasn't fighting Hamas.

During the years since the Oslo agreement these self-accredited geniuses have developed the slogan that Arafat is a "partner for peace," and therefore ought to congratulate Sharon for "saving" Arafat, their disappointing hero.

Let me assure them that their joy will be short-lived. The power of the bulldozer in the right time and place is greater than that of the tank. These journalists and their colleagues have never understood what Arafat really is, just as they have never comprehended who Sharon is, when he protects Jews against their murderers.

This human bulldozer, with his decisiveness and ability to taking care of business, is far more powerful that the bulldozers he sent to the Mukata.

During the last day of Succot in 1973, at the peak of the Yom Kippur War, when he commanded the 143rd Armored Division, Sharon prepared bulldozers to break down the high mound of earth on the east bank of the Suez Canal. There he erected a bridgehead for crossing the canal and turned Israel's defeat into victory. It brought Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem to ask for peace in 1977.

This Succot, Sharon's bulldozers are another step toward the defeat of terrorism.

The writer is the Mideast correspondent of The New York Post.

(c) 2002 The Jerusalem Post

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