A fragile cease fire continued, threatened by a long gun
battle on Monday but not to the breaking point.
There were heavy gun battles throughout the day and into
last night near Rafah in the Gaza Strip. Palestinians also
fired seven mortar shells in three salvos at Jewish
communities and IDF positions in Gaza yesterday and close to
midnight on Sunday.
Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon unilaterally declared a
cease fire on May 21, soon after the internationally
sponsored Mitchell report on the situation was published.
Israel refrained from taking any initiatives to halt
However, twenty Israelis were killed and more than 100
wounded when a Palestinian terrorist blew himself up outside
a nightclub along Tel Aviv's beach front promenade last
Friday. Nearly all the victims were young immigrants from
the former Soviet Union and most of them were girls. The
bomb was particularly devastating because it was packed with
screws and nails, and the injuries were serious.
In the wake of the bombing, Israel took nonviolent steps to
restrain the Palestinians, and tightened the closure on the
territories and ordered even those Palestinians with entry
permits back to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Prime Minister Sharon also declared an end to the unilateral
cease-fire. However when Arafat soon declared a cease fire
on the Palestinian side, the Israeli cabinet decided not to
order any military reprisals, but to see whether
international pressure would spur Arafat to rein in
Israel and America have insisted that Arafat must take
active steps to halt terror and not just stop the shooting.
This means that he must rearrest the terrorists that were in
PA jails who were released as part of the current cycle of
Palestinian violence. The extremist Islamic groups including
the Islamic Jihad and the Hamas have not accepted a cease
US Secretary of State Colin Powell telephoned Sharon and
Arafat on Monday for the third time since Friday to urge
both sides to maintain a cease-fire.
"The secretary urged Arafat in the strongest possible terms
to follow words with actions and to undertake a 100-percent
effort against violence and terrorism, including the arrest
of those responsible for atrocities like the bombings on
Friday," a U.S. State Department official said.
Over the weekend Powell warned against frequently
dispatching senior officials to the region. "Over-
involvement on the part of the most senior people in
government tends to keep people from making the kinds of
decisions they have to make, because they are always looking
for a little better deal, and [they say,] `The Americans are
coming. They'll make it happen,' or, `The Americans will put
pressure here, the Americans will do that,' " Powell told
Powell said the US wants to avoid the mistakes of the
Clinton administration, which in its last days used its
highest-level personnel in negotiations and built up
expectations in a dangerous way.
Although most observers believe that Arafat is still in
control of the situation in the PA, his control is not
immediate and absolute. It is expected that it may take him
a full days to bring complete quiet. However the big
question is if he truly intends to put an end to the current
cycle of violence for the immediate future or is just paying
lip service to international opinion which was insistent
that Palestinian violence stop after the last horrible
Prime Minister Sharon has come under intense criticism from
the Right for not responding militarily to the suicide bomb.
Members of his own Likud party had harsh words and the Ichud
Haleumi led by Rechavam Zeevi threatened to leave the
government over the issue.
Though clearly on the defensive, Sharon held his ground.
"The defense establishment knows what to do and it is ready
to do it," Sharon told members of the Likud Knesset faction.
"No one is preventing our defense forces from doing what
they need to do. Our policy is not restraint. Our policy is
to protect the people of Israel."
Sharon also confirmed that he was considering a plan to
create a new security buffer zone and enclose settlements in
the West Bank with a security fence to prevent infiltration
by terrorists. "This is the concept that we are dealing with
today," Sharon said.
A senior army commander said Monday that Arafat's cease-fire
statement caused the cancellation of a "severe assault" on
the Palestinian Authority that the air force was poised to
Cabinet minister Danny Naveh (Likud) said Arafat should be
given a chance to demonstrate that his cease-fire calls are
serious, but added that the "testing period" cannot last
long. Naveh left little doubt that if the brittle calm
collapsed, Arafat's Authority would be squarely in the cross-
hairs of the Israeli military. "If Arafat does not indeed
fight terror, as he has claimed he intends to do, the
significance of this is that we will have to be the ones to
fight terror," Naveh said. "Terror is not just Hamas and
Islamic Jihad, but also that which gives a green light to
Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and that is the Palestinian
Meanwhile, Israeli forces arrested two senior Palestinian
officials and two other Palestinians on Tuesday, Palestinian
Authority officials and witnesses said. The officials said
an Israeli patrol stopped a Palestinian taxi and arrested
Majdi Alawneh, a senior Palestinian liaison official with
Israel in Nablus.
Near Qalqilya another Palestinian official, Iyad Mardawi,
was arrested. The two were arrested on charges of sabotaging
the liaison cooperation with Israel.
Ha'aretz commentator Danny Rubinstein suggests that one
factor behind Arafat's decision was the impact of the
suicide bombing on the Palestinian public. "During past
periods of the Intifadah, there were many instances when,
had Arafat declared a cease-fire, no one would have listened
to him," he says. "Therefore, he refrained from doing so. No
one wants to give an order that will go unobeyed."
This time, Rubinstein says, the horror of the carnage
shocked even many Palestinians, and there was also fear of
the Israeli reprisal. Rubinstein says he believed that
Arafat never wanted the Al Aqsa Intifadah to break out in
the first place. "But once it suddenly erupted, he could not
act differently. He refrained from issuing orders to cease
fire because he know that no one would heed them."
For most of Israel, life continues as usual, as it has been
for the past eight months. There seems little possibility of
any uncontrolled spread of violence. The bastions of Torah
continue providing the most effective protection in the
present and the best guarantee for the future.