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February 2002 issue of
World Press Review
(VOL. 49, No. 2)
Fighting Fire with Fire
World Press Review Correspondent
As 2001 drew to
a close, the deadly wave of Palestinian terror attacks against
Israels civilian population, which escalated during U.S.
special Mideast envoy Gen. Anthony Zinnis visit to the
region, led Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to declare Palestinian
Authority (PA) Chairman Yasser Arafat irrelevant.
Picking up the chorus, the editors of Hatzofeh wrote
in their Dec. 13 editorial: Arafat explains to the world
that he cannot be held responsible for terrorist attacks of
this type, that those behind these actions are from abroad.
In other words the hapless Arafat announces that he doesnt
control the situation and that he cannot prevent these attacks.
After the Israeli security cabinets decision to label
Arafat irrelevant, Hatzofehs Dec. 14 editorial
declared: From now on Israel does not see itself bound
to the Oslo accord. A pity that the government of Sharon did
not arrive at this conclusion from the moment that it took power.
The editors conclude: If the Palestinians are interested
in renewing negotiations with Israel they must disengage from
Yasser Arafats fetters and designate under him a reliable
man who has the power to project his complete mastery over the
PA and to ban the terror organizations.... As long as the people
of blood run free, Israel has no other choice but to hit the
terrorists who are there.
The commentators at Haaretz had a different view
of the crisis. Amos Harel (Dec. 13) wrote: Israel is not
pinning any real hopes on the American pressure. PA Chairman
Yasser Arafat is not rushing to accede to the American demands.
Also, if a temporary remission in terror emerges, the violence
will ultimately become stronger, and the next time it erupts,
it will be with even greater force. The attacks at the West
Bank settlement of Emmanuel and in Gush Katif, which occurred
almost simultaneously, confirm this forecast. The 48 hours of
quiet that Gen. Zinni requested just two days ago have been
forgotten as if they never existed.
Former deputy mayor of Jerusalem Meron Benvenisti, an author
and columnist for Haaretz, took a bolder view (Dec.
13): Humiliating Palestinians at checkpoints is a serious
matter, but might be excusable because of the need to crack
down on the movement of terrorists. But humiliating, denouncing,
and calling for the blood of the national leader, father of
their nation, and symbol of their nationhood is another thing
entirely. What pressing security need was there in the destruction
of the chairmans helicopterspiles of junk already
out of commissionif not the urge to humiliate Yasser Arafat?
In Yediot Aharonot (Dec. 14) senior columnist Shimon
Shefer quoted Foreign Minister Shimon Peres as saying, Arafat
isnt finished yet. Peres, the only cabinet member
opposed to cutting off contact with Arafat, stated: It
is entirely possible that the military actions against Arafat
will make him stronger.
Yoel Marcus, Haaretz senior columnist, echoed the
foreign ministers concerns, predicting (Dec. 14): If
Sharon becomes tempted to do to the Palestinians what Bush is
doing in Afghanistan, he will discover very quickly that the
current anger at Arafat will not make the slightest dent in
the worlds basic support for a Palestinian state and the
termination of Israels 35 years of occupation.