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Israel must fight Palestinian Authority

By Lorenzo Sadun


Monday, April 22, 2002

Hebron is an old city. The patriarch Abraham, traditional ancestor of both Arabs and Jews, was buried there almost 4,000 years ago, making Hebron sacred to both peoples. A thousand years later, King David made Hebron his capital (until his conquest of Jerusalem). From the time of the crusades, Jews and Arabs lived together in this sacred city, and on Aug. 24, 1929, roughly 600 Jews called Hebron home. Two days later, none remained. Sixty-seven Jews had been killed by an Arab mob. The rest had fled for their lives.

I write this not to bring up old grievances (there are far too many, on both sides), but to make a simple point. The use of terror against the Jews of Israel did not begin with Ariel Sharon's trip to the Temple Mount, nor with the 1967 war, nor with the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. Reversing the results of 1967 will not end the terror. The goal of the terrorists, now as in 1929, is not to "end the occupation," but to end any organized Jewish presence in Israel/Palestine. The leaders of Hamas are quite candid about this. They support establishing Palestinian sovereignty in Hebron, Nablus and East Jerusalem, but only as a step to establishing Palestinian sovereignty (and an Islamic state) in Haifa, Tel Aviv, and West Jerusalem. 

Two other cities illustrate the difficulties of making peace. Netanya and Tulkarem do not suffer from Hebron's long history, and there is no dispute in either place over religious sites. Netanya is a Jewish city on the Mediterranean coast, while Tulkarem is an Arab town in the West Bank. There should be no obstacle to the Jews of Netanya and the Arabs of Tulkarem living in peace. Unfortunately, it hasn't worked. Since the beginning of the intifada, there have been numerous bombings in Netanya, including the recent suicide-bombing of a Passover Seder that killed 25. In almost every case, the attackers came from Tulkarem, a mere nine miles away. 

Without doubt, the Palestinian people deserve freedom, self-government and a homeland. The Palestinians of Tulkarem should be living peacefully under their own flag. The key word is "peacefully." Israel cannot allow Hamas to operate freely from a base that is as close to Netanya as Round Rock is to downtown Austin.

If the Palestinians had a government that could be trusted to police its territory and prevent terror, Tulkarem would not be an issue. Unfortunately, the Palestinian Authority has not restrained terror; it has organized and subsidized it. Terrorists caught in the act by Israel have frequently proven to be members of the Palestinian security forces, answering directly to Yasser Arafat. The Karine A, a weapons ship loaded with mortars and high-grade explosives, was intercepted by Israel and traced directly to senior Palestinian Authority officials. The Palestinian Authority-controlled media incessantly extol martyrdom, honor the actions of suicide bombers and urge others to join in the "blessed intifada." Far from being a "partner in peace," the Palestinian Authority is Israel's deadly enemy.

And so Israel must fight. Fight against the Palestinian population as little as possible, yet against the Palestinian Authority as much as necessary. Fight until the power of those who encourage, finance and protect terror is broken. By itself this fight will not bring about peace, much less meet the Palestinians' legitimate needs, but it can remove a sponsor of war and terror, setting the stage for a future peace. In this setting, international calls for Israeli "restraint" are highly counterproductive.

It is not at all clear who would lead the Palestinians if the Palestinian Authority fell. In the short term, the Palestinians might well turn to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. If so, the fighting would continue. Eventually, however, I believe the Palestinians will find leaders of wisdom and courage who will seek peace and prepare their people to do likewise. When that happens, Israel must be ready to dismantle settlements and to yield the bulk of the West Bank and Gaza to a responsible Palestinian government. Simple justice demands this. So should the United States.

That time has not yet come. Right now, Palestine is waging war on Israel, and Israel must wage war in return. 

Sadun is an associate professor of mathematics at University of Texas-Austin. He spent the 1999-2000 academic year at the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.

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