"The tragedy of the Palestinian people is that the person who in the past symbolized their struggle in the world's eyes [Yassir Arafat] has turned into an executer of the Israeli occupation."
Green light to slaughter: The secret agreements are what are important
Professor Tanya Reinhart, Mid-East Realities,
19 October 2000
In the Sharm-al-Sheikh summit last week, Barak got from the US his green light to slaughter. To judge by the Israeli media, what we have seen so far is just the prelude. The most important time will come in the middle of next week, when…Israel will have to consider taking the initiative, rather than merely responding to events. (Ha'aretz, Amos Harel, Oct 19).
Bits and pieces of the initiative have been revealed: It includes entering Palestinian Authority (PA) areas to confiscate weapons, and air raids using attack helicopters. There is now talk about a Palestinian Kosovo which might result in 2000-3000 Palestinians dead. As usual, the blame for this slaughter is put in advance on Arafat, who, the story goes, wants his people to be slaughtered in order to gain international sympathy.
Another aspect of what is being planned has already started, with very little coverage, under the calm title of evacuation. Palestinian residents of areas of conflict near Jewish settlements have been told to evacuate their homes for their own protection. So far this happened in el-Bireh (Oct 7), Beit-Jallah (Oct 18) and the Askar refugee camp near Nablus (Oct 10). And this could be just the beginning. In more direct words, this could lead to transfer under the pretext of war, something people like Ariel Sharon have spoken of for quite some time.
The military preparations and training for the Israeli attacks actually started back in June when Barak first informed the Israeli media that there is a danger of a Palestinian unrest, following the model of Southern Lebanon. But to actually impliment his policies it was first necessary to create a smokescreen, to manifest Barak's unprecedented eagerness for peace.
The model for this was rehearsed on Syria earlier this year — intensive peace talks at the end of which Barak declared that there is no partner for peace.
Then the Camp David II peace round was used to convince the obedient Israeli media, as well as many others around the world, that Barak had done everything possible for peace and it is all the fault of the Palestinians for resisting Barak's supposed great concessions. Then President Clinton was called on to publicly blame Arafat, helping set the deck chairs for what is now happening.
For three weeks now, Barak has been going forward but holding back on full execution of his schemes, waiting for a full U.S. green light. As reported in early October, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak is appealing to the United States for approval of a massive offensive against Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority. So far, the United States has appealed to Barak for more time (World Tribune, Oct 9).
And many may have been fooled into believing that Israel won't get U.S. approval this time. There is so much opposition to Israel's acts throughout the world.
The Arab world is storming with demonstrations. American embassies have had to be closed temporarily. And the Yemen explosion is an indication of what could begin to happen.
The U.S. was cautious at first – not even the customary vetoing of the Security Council resolution. CNN – the most direct and daily seismograph of the White House – betrayed the hesitations. There was a week when sharp criticism of Israel was allowed in their news, along with the standard pro-Israeli propaganda, and even Edward Said got a full-length interview, probably for the first time in CNN's history. But no more!
The three weeks of deliberations have now ended with a Washington green light…similar in fact to what happened at the time Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982. Intensive diplomacy of threats and promises seems to have convinced the U.S. that the Arab regimes can still be relied upon to withstand their people's pressure. The Americans, and the Israelis too of course, expect the Arab League summit to end up as a harmless ceremony. They believe that when it ends the tanks can start talking, undisturbed.
For the U.S. this is a dangerous game. But what's at stake here is not just its automatic backing of Israel. The explosive Arab anger on the street has been directed at the U.S. as well as at Israel. The rational move for the U.S. would have been to cool things off for now, to stop Barak. But that has never really been the U.S. strategy. In an important sense the U.S. simply can't tolerate even the slightest disobedience from the loyal client regimes it sponsors.
U.S. domination, and Israeli control, are dependent, it seems, on creating overwhelming force which is occasionally used. Showing who is in charge, demonstrating who is master, is an integral part of the overall regional strategy.
At the Sharm el-Sheikh summit Arafat once again complied. We may have been fooled to believe that this time, under the pressure of his people, he is going to change.
But it is too late for him to change.
The tragedy of the Palestinian people is that the person who in the past symbolized their struggle in the world's eyes has turned into an executer of the Israeli occupation.
The substantial issue which was worked out in the summit, behind the public show of cease fire, was the secret security agreement. This agreement is designed to guarantee Arafat's continued commitment to do the policing job for Israel — namely, to prevent Palestinian retaliations inside Israel. As reported in Ha'aretz', its implementation will be overseen by CIA chief George Tenet and the CIA representative in Tel Aviv. This agreement will, for the first time, involve CIA observers in the field in addition to CIA participation in Israeli-Palestinian meetings. (Ha'aretz, Aluf Ben, Oct 18).
Indeed, just a day after the summit, Israeli undercover units seized eight Palestinians who were in the crowd that lynched two Israeli soldiers a week before. The operation was carried out with the connivance of some members of the Palestinian security forces, who apparently tipped off the Israelis where to find the men. (The Telegraph (U.K.), Alan Phillips in Jerusalem, 19 October).
The official propaganda in Israel now is that Arafat is responsible for the uprising, and he is not a real partner for peace. Not only does this provide the continuous justification for the planned slaughter, but it is also the biggest service Israel can offer in return for Arafat's compliance. Israel's constant dissatisfaction with Arafat is now his greatest claim to credibility.
When Israel intensified its murder of unarmed demonstrators on Friday the 20th (with 9 dead in one day) Arafat's spokesman, Sa'eb Erakat, was interviewed pleading no other then the U.S. to investigate and to protect the Palestinians. This follows another concession of Arafat at Sharm el-Sheikh. No more pleas to the international community. From now on, little red ridinghood can only call the wolf to protect her.
If there is anything that could still prevent the bloodshed, it is international intervention. International inspectors, U.N. forces, or even just NGO volunteers present in the area could potentially at least slow down Israeli forces unleashed by Barak. It is therefore extremely important now, even more than in the past, to understand Arafat's collaborating role, and to remember that it is Israel, rather than the Palestinian people, who view the U.S. as the 'neutral moderator'.
Tanya Reinhart teaches at Tel Aviv University and the University of Utrecht.
The author can be reached at Tanya@MiddleEast.org