By Charles Krauthammer
May 18, 2001
On May 6, the Israeli navy intercepted a Lebanese ship headed for Gaza. It
carried a full cargo of weapons, including Katyusha rockets and Strella
These are not weapons of protest. These are not weapons for
demonstrations. These are weapons for all-out war. The Katyushas can reach
the most densely populated parts of Israel. The Strellas can bring down
airplanes, military or civilian.
According to the ship’s captain, two similar shipments had already made it
through to Gaza. Yasser Arafat’s war on Israel, begun eight months ago, is
about to escalate dramatically.
Arafat has released all Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists from his jails. Many of
them are working in his security forces. His own Fatah movement sports a
guerrilla army called the Tanzim whose specialty is drive-by shootings of Jewish
motorists and shooting into Jewish neighborhoods that border on Palestinian
The next escalation will involve mortars. The Palestinians have been launching
them from the sanctuary of their own territory in Gaza, both against Israeli
settlements and against towns in Israel proper. They have now smuggled
mortars into the West Bank. Soon the suburbs of Tel Aviv will be in range.
Thus far Israel has responded by sending its tanks into Gaza to suppress the
mortars — and then withdrawing. Palestinian spokesmen have denounced these
cross-border Israeli raids.
“They’re not only designed to blur [boundaries],” said Nabil Shaath,
Palestinian international planning minister. “They’re designed to blur the whole
prospect of peace.”
Boundaries? Peace? This would be comical if it were not so tragic.
Israel gave Palestinians this territory under the Oslo peace accords in
return for the solemn Palestinian pledge to renounce violence and to settle all
outstanding disputes through negotiations.
Last October, Arafat decided to tear up Oslo and start his guerrilla war
against Israel; now he complains that according to the piece of paper he has
torn up, his territory is inviolable.
Even Hitler did not have the audacity to complain about Britain’s
declaring war on him (after he invaded Poland) on the grounds that Britain had
pledged peace at Munich.
Why did Arafat start the war? The Palestinian Authority’s various rationales are
First, violence ostensibly broke out because of Palestinian anger over Ariel
Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount on Sept. 28.
Palestinian post and telecommunications minister Imad Falouji thinks not.
“Whoever thinks that the intifada broke out because of the despised
Sharon’s visit to the al-Aqsa Mosque, is wrong,” he said in a speech to
Palestinians in Lebanon.
“This intifada was planned in advance, ever since President Arafat’s
return from the Camp David negotiations, where he turned the table upside
down on President Clinton” by rejecting Israel’s peace proposal and thus
incurring blame from the president of the United States for the failure of the
(Falouji, reportedly under pressure from Arafat, has subsequently denied that he
said this. Unfortunately for Falouji, a similar statement of his at a Gaza
symposium was reported in the Palestinian-affiliated daily al-Ayyam.)
Recognizing that it is a little much to expect the world to believe that Sharon’s
visit spawned not one or two or three but 230 days of shooting, rioting,
bombing and murder, the Palestinians adopted another tack. They’re fighting,
they now say, because of the expansion of settlements.
That rationale — which has found its way into the report by the Mitchell
Commission, set up to adjudicate the causes of the fighting — is equally absurd.
At Camp David and then at Taba in the dying days of the Clinton
presidency, Israel offered the Palestinians their own state and Israeli withdrawal
from 95 percent of the disputed territories. The vast majority of settlements
would have been uprooted. The remaining ones (grouped on a tiny 5 percent of
the West Bank, an area smaller than one of Ted Turner’s four Montana ranches)
would revert to Israel. And Israel would give Palestinian equivalent 5 percent of
its own territory to make up the difference.
Result? A Palestinian state on land amounting to 100 percent of the West Bank
— with no settlements, no Jews. Arafat turned that peace offer down. Yet now
he pretends he is fighting to get rid of settlements.
Why is he fighting? Read the speech he gave May 15, “Catastrophe Day,” as
the Palestinians commemorate the date of Israel’s birth. He is fighting because
the Jew-free Palestinian state is hardly his only goal. There will be no peace, he
pledged, until the millions of Palestinians living abroad are returned to Israel —
and thus extinguish it as a Jewish state.
Palestine first, then Israel. For decades the West assured Israel that its security
depended on “land for peace.” Arafat, it turns out, is fighting for land without peace.