Israel Can't Do Business With Terrorists
Violence against civilians must be forcibly stopped, not forgiven.
BY EHUD OLMERT
Wall Street Journal Monday, June 3, 2002 12:01 a.m. EDT
State Department envoy William Burns's return to the Middle East promoting
the American-backed regional peace summit tragically coincides with the
resumption of the daily Palestinian suicide bombings. As Israeli civilians
are being murdered in cities all across the Jewish State, the Palestinian
leadership is once again damning these new peace initiatives to failure.
Terrorism is still part of their tactical plan.
Despite all the tough talk, well-wishing and demand for reform, Arafat's
entrenched Palestinian Authority regime is constitutionally unable and
morally unwilling to abandon its violent struggle against Israel.
The majority of the Israeli public had naively accepted the basic premises
of the Oslo Accords when they were signed in the fall of 1993 because we
received a guarantee that the Palestinian police and security forces would
put an end to terrorism and bring about a true peace. Yitzhak Rabin, then
prime minister, assured us that Arafat would personally order the arrest of
the Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders and eradicate their terrorist
infrastructure. Instead of Israeli troops carrying out dangerous patrols in
Ramallah, Jenin and Gaza, we were promised, the Palestinian forces would do
it for us. In those innocent Oslo days, many truly believed that terrorism
could be fought by proxy and we need merely give Arafat the weapons to do
Over the next few years, that optimism began to dissipate. If anyone in
Israel still had faith in Arafat and his Palestinian security services by
October 2000, the Arab violence that commenced that month put it to rest
forever. The forces under Arafat's command became both the catalyst and
vanguard of the terrorist attacks. Arafat's Fatah Tanzim and Force 17 units
were transformed into full-fledged terrorist groups, with their members
competing with Hamas to see how many Jews they could kill.
As the violence accelerated, and as more and more Israeli families were
being destroyed, the new line touted by both our allies and enemies was that
Arafat could not actually assert any influence over the terrorist
organizations. The 40,000 armed guerillas that were brought in from PLO
bases in Tunis, Syria and south Lebanon were now operating without any
restraints against Israel from the Palestinian territories.
The new American plan being presented calls for a reorganization of the
Palestinian security forces with the intention of placing them under a
unified command. The hope is that they will miraculously be transformed into
a law-abiding legion that will root out terrorists. Once again we Israelis
are being assured with a straight face that Arafat and his gunmen will fight
Hamas and Islamic Jihad for us. Israeli troops are currently being
restrained from entering Gaza, while Arafat's forces are supposedly being
given yet another makeover.
Hundreds of members of the Palestinian police forces have engaged in
terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, including American citizens,
during the last 21 months. Israeli security services and our military are
actively hunting these criminals and our Justice Ministry is busy filing
their indictments. Thousands of individuals with PA-authorized guns are
active members of the Fatah Tanzim terrorist group. And barely a day goes by
without another suicide bomber from the Tanzim destroying himself and
innocent bystanders in a public center.
The terrorist leaders and their activists cannot suddenly be forgiven or
pardoned just because a new political initiative is underway. Israel, like
every other Western state, has an obligation to continue to arrest and
prosecute those who sought to advance their unacceptable political goal by
targeting civilians. Justice dictates that there be no clemency for these
rogue police officials.
Many are placing their new hopes on Gaza preventive security service boss
Mohammed Dahlan. Mr. Dahlan, a rising star on the Palestinian stage, is
being presented as the man who can unify all of Arafat's security forces and
bring order to the PA. Word has it that he just returned from a trip to
Washington where he got high marks from the National Security Council. (Mr.
Dahlan denies ever going.) Either way, Mr. Dahlan is the man who has
presided over an ever-fortified terrorist network. Gaza, the home to Hamas
and Islamic Jihad, became a base for some of the most heinous terrorist
attacks unleashed against Israel.
On his watch, Mr. Dahlan permitted Gaza to become a safe haven for the
hundreds of fugitive terrorists fleeing Israeli forces. Among those being
sheltered is his childhood friend Mohammed Dief, a leading Hamas mastermind
with the blood of scores of Israelis on his hands. In the meantime, Mr.
Dahlan's district became the primary launching grounds for the hundreds of
Kessem missiles fired at Israel.
Mr. Dahlan's involvement in terrorism has not been confined to mere
nonfeasance but, rather, gross malfeasance as well. Mr. Dahlan, along with
his assistant Rashid Abu-Shabak, are the primary suspects in the terror
attack on an Israeli school bus in Kfar Darom in November 2000. The bombing
of the bus left half a dozen children maimed, and seriously injured an
American citizen, Rachel Asaroff. In response to this brutal terror attack
on Jewish school children, then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak dispatched Israeli
planes to strafe Mr. Dahlan's Gaza headquarters.
In Israel, we are frequently lectured that we must do business with the
unsavory assortment of dictators, strongmen and criminals that surround us.
This, we are told, is the nature of the neighborhood we live in. As mayor of
Jerusalem, I have in my public duties the unfortunate experience of sitting
down with many individuals I do not necessarily like. But the current
thinking that Mr. Dahlan can bring reform and law enforcement to the
Palestinians is totally misguided. No democratic state should ever allow
itself to do business with those individuals who deliberately target a
While the State Department and envoy Burns are to be admired for their
determination to forge a peace agreement on Israel's behalf, their
zealousness is beginning to chafe. Seeking a "regional conference at all
costs," and hanging hopes on a reorganized Palestinian security force under
the sole leadership of one who has himself been involved in serious
terrorist attacks sends an unacceptable message. Criminals such as Mr.
Dahlan and Arafat can never be reformed; they must be eradicated by force.
Mr. Olmert is the mayor of Jerusalem.