Will Sharon Occupy Gaza And Sideline Arafat?

by Mamdouh Nofal on 04/03/2003

While the world is busy with the Iraqi crisis, Israel intensified its atrocities against the Palestinian people amid total silence by the Arab world and the international community. However, the Americans voiced a strong justification for the Israeli aggression as the U.S. considered the killing of civilians a “justified right that Israel was practicing for its defense and in the effort to combat terror.”

In addition, Hamas went back on a correct decision it had adopted that restricted the use of its “Al Kassam missiles” and the mortar artillery in self-defense. Sharon was able to lure it once again to military action in which he is superior.

While I am not a supporter of judging positions or estimating what Israel might do, resuming the shelling of Israeli cities or carrying out suicide attacks against Israeli civilians in Israel makes it easier for Israeli leaders to carry out their designs instead of undermining them. Moreover, the retreat of Hamas from its realistic position points to a major defect in estimating the position, and reflects confusion in decision-making. These two defects weaken the Palestinian position on the international scene and undermine it in the Arab summit.

In addition, I believe that the Arab leaders’ examination of the situation in the Palestinian areas in an objective manner points to the following bitter fact: What Sharon has been carrying out is part of an Israeli plan that is strongly coordinated with the senior members of the American administration, that has its common political, military and strategic goals that go beyond the West Bank and Gaza, and are more serious than blackmailing the Palestinian authority politically.

Political blackmail, as is known to all, means the presence of an intention to solve the conflict by peaceful means and to return to the negotiating table according to certain conditions that Israel is trying to impose on the Palestinians. Moreover, the leaders of the Arab summit are well aware that such a solution is not what Sharon and his extreme right-wing partners in the government are contemplating. And the leak by Israel’s office a few days ago that Israel intends to include 100 changes to the Road Map reveals the true position of Sharon regarding resumption of negotiations. Sharon believes that through Israel’s military superiority he can wage a multi-front war, and that its huge resources together with America’s support are enough to impose peace on the Arabs.

It is obvious that Arab leaders are aware that the coming few weeks carry serious political and security developments for the Palestinians, and that the silence of the American administration to the practices of Sharon before the convening of the Arab summit, and its pressures on Russia, the EU and the Secretary-General of the UN to postpone declaration of the Road Map is part of the effort to win the support of the Israeli lobby in America.

The Bush administration did not hesitate to extort the Cairo summit before it convened. It threatened Arab leaders to stop economic aid to their countries, as well as security and military aid. It also hints at allowing Israel to maintain its hostile practices and to continue with its expansionist policies. It is worthwhile to remind the Arab leaders meeting at Sharm Al Sheikh that the main offensive that the Israelis launched against the headquarters of Yasser Arafat last March came in the wake of their Beirut summit.

Sharon finds in the American support and the weak Arab position, both popular and official, an opportunity to carry out the program of the Likud Party, which aims at expelling as many as possible of the Palestinians, and to destroy what is left of the Palestinian Authority. His first anticipated move after the Arab summit is to reoccupy by piecemeal the Gaza strip and to impose surrender upon the Palestinians. Moreover, Arab leaders are aware that Sharon hopes that the American administration allows Israel to participate in the war against Iraq, and that he deals with that war as an opportunity to address Israel’s security and economic crisis.

And if the Arab summit is unable to stop the war against Iraq, it would have been able to take a decision to prevent the American and British forces and their allies from deploying on their territories to invade that country. In addition, the Palestinians are aware that their share of that summit is limited and does not exceed renewing the financial support. It is better for them to contemplate reducing their losses throughout the war and after it, ands to energize the role of the Arab peoples and world public opinion in their support.