The first question aroused by the Israeli assassination of the PFLP leader, Abu Ali Mustapha, is certainly a Palestinian security concern: How could that happen? In a context of violence and continued bloodshed, and after the Israeli government declared the “targeted murders” as a political line, why the Palestinian security forces did not take the necessary precautions in order to protect the national leaders of the PLO? Indeed, there is little to do against missiles fired by helicopters, as it was the case. But why should that happen at all, when the Palestinians know that Abu Ali Mustapha precisely was wanted by the Israelis, as Arafat himself may be? No matter what the PFLP did or did not to “deserve” that execution from the Israeli point of view, the fact is that since the Dolphinarium attack his name was on the list of the “targets”. The Israelis hold him responsible for directing some operations in Jerusalem, especially a car bomb discovered on Horkanus Street, and another in Mea Shearim neighborhood, it was said. Yet, nothing is more abject than carrying on such killings on the grounds of a simple suspicion. But the Palestinian security forces are also to blame. The office of the murdered leader is only at a little distance away from the office of the chief of the PLO, himself, and Mustapha Zibri – the murdered- was not a “second-rank” leader- as some Israelis believed- but one of the most important in the Palestinian scene, since the sixteenths. His movement – Popular Front – has been with Mr. Hawatmeh’s Democratic Front, the main hub on the left of Fatah, Arafat’s own movement. As a matter of fact, the PLO has been essentially based on the understanding between these three components. That’s why it is inexact to pretend that the Israeli showed “restraint”, since they did not attack Arafat or one of his ministers, but an “opponent” to the Oslo process! The incongruity of such a pretension is obvious: the first opponent to Oslo is the Israeli Prime Minister himself, as he declared it at several occasions. Therefore, it is pointless to try to justify the murder on this ground.
The Palestinians are to blame because they know that with Sharon in power, there is not the least doubt about his intentions. Lately, Newsweek reported that a proposal to kill Arafat came up in the Israeli Cabinet following a suicide bomber’s August 9 attack on a pizzeria in occupied Jerusalem. Thus, if they focused on Arafat’s protection, they omitted that any national leader involved in the Intifada is also undergoing the same risks. The Israelis, at the highest level of responsibility, do not hide that they consider the PLO leaders as foes. And if Arafat himself is dubbed as ” our cruelest enemy” by the Defense Minister, Ben Eliezer, as by Ihud Barak who launched a violent attack against Shimon Peres when the latter announced his intention of meeting the PA head, what would they expect as regards the other leaders? Whether they opposed the Oslo process or not is nowadays pointless, for those who are in charge in Israel right now are also against that process. And so far, there is no indication whatever that Sharon is going to change his ” restrained policy” that earned him the support of Mr. Bush administration!
The expression “restrained policy” has been used many times by Israeli officials to show that they have been actually “rewarded” by the USA indefectible support to their government. In their eyes, Sharon is thus encouraged by the Bush administration to continuing the same policy, also called ” gradual retaliation”. The Israelis have then well listened to Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney: when they use F-16 and F-15 warplanes and all the panoply of the American weaponry in their hands against the Palestinians, they do nothing but self-defense! Killing the leaders of the PLO is also self-defense! Besieging three million people and cutting them off the world, is also self-defense! Maintaining the occupation of their territories by force, is indubitably, self-defense! And it is well America, the leader of the free world, that gives them all the support and the assistance they need to pursuing that “restrained policy” based on murder and transgression of the most elementary human rights.
In such a context, Mr. Boucher called on Syria to ” exercise restraint over groups that it allows on Syrian territory”, apparently a reference to members of the PFLP who threatened to attack Israelis and American interests. But what would the Syrians do? Would they launch their security forces after the Palestinian refugees, whereas their own land – Golan – is still occupied by the Israelis? True, the Americans have a reputation of being pragmatic, but here, it is obvious that they are going the other way around. No, they are not idealistic, for there is no idealism in supporting colonization and injustice. They are either naive or blind. For Mr. Boucher did not even ask himself: What did we actually give to Syria in order to obtain its cooperation? Did we support its legitimate claims as regards the Golan? Did we make a single step towards its new leader to gain him on our side? Why are we still imagining that the Arabs would merely bow to the Israelis, despite we know that they bowed neither to the British nor to the French colonisations?
If Mr. Boucher asks himself this kind of questions, he would know that nothing is more painful to the Arabs than to see the American leaders turn a blind eye on the plight of the Palestinian people, and pretend that they can do nothing. For if a Super-power on which assistance Israel depends for its survival, can do nothing, then who can?
Is it Arafat, threatened by the “targeted murders”, like his former colleagues in the PLO, Abu Iyad, and Abu Jihad, and lately Abu Ali Mustapha? Is it Bashar Al Assad, whose land is still occupied? Is it Abdullah of Jordan, whose hands are tied up by the peace agreement his father had signed? Is it Hosni Mubarak, whose delegation conduced by his senior adviser Al Baz, has been lately turned down by the mammoth position of Mr. Bush administration? Where exactly are the moderate friends who used to relay America these days in the Arab world? What did they do of them?
As to the Israelis themselves, they cannot be in a better state, albeit some of them think that the American position is doing them good.
The New York Times reported on 29 August, that Dan Ayalon, the senior foreign policy adviser to Sharon, told a gathering of Middle East experts at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy that the Bush administration had voiced little disagreement with how Israel was acting. And Mr.Ayalon also praised the administration for its posture, saying the Israeli government did not believe that Washington should be more heavily involved.
But in fact, the Israelis are the hostages of their own army. It is well the generals Maufaz and Sharon who are leading the country today, not a so-called elect government. And it is the military law, and the military perception of political assets and economical interests, the military ambitions that are prevailing over all other considerations. That’s why all the diplomatic proposals, all the attempts to find an honorable issue to the deadlock, failed so far.
Hichem Karoui is a writer and journalist living in Paris, France.