After the Passover Massacre, in which yet another Palestinian suicide bomber killed yet another crowd of innocents, the Israelis finally decided to rid themselves of the terrorists’ godfather who directs the attacks against them every day. The Friday morning raid into Yassir Arafat’s Ramallah compound is undoubtedly aimed at two objectives: seizing the treasure trove of intelligence there, and capturing this bloody-handed terrorist alive, so he can be deported.
As Benjamin Netanyahu reminded us on Friday, Arafat was offered a Palestinian state, and East Jerusalem for its capital, twenty months ago. Israel’s then-prime minister, Ehud Barak, staked his political life on Arafat and Clinton, and lost it. Arafat’s response to that offer is today’s daily slaughter.
Initial reports said that the Israeli Defense Forces raiding the compound were more interested in grabbing every piece of paper and computer disk than in grabbing Arafat. Whether he lives or dies in the final act is important only because if he dies at Israel’s hand, he will be another hero to the Palestinians, rather than being deported in shackles and disgrace. The wealth of intelligence information gathered, which may contain lists of terrorists and suicide bombers already on the loose, as well as their contacts and support network, may lead to the most widespread damage to the terrorist network that has occurred in decades. The Israelis will, we hope, share much of that information with us. We would do well to use it quickly.
The attack on the Ramallah compound came just after the Passover Massacre in Netanya, and during the Arab league’s Beirut Summit. The outcry from the assembled was what we should expect. Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah — who just the day before was playing kissy-face with the Iraqi veep — immediately condemned the Israelis. The rest followed, and the U.N. Security Council met in emergency session. At the end of that meeting on Friday night, the Council passed a resolution calling on both the Palestinians and the Israelis to cease fire and to cooperate with our “peace envoy,” Gen. Zinni. It also calls on the Israelis to withdraw from Palestinian cities. The fact that we joined the likes of Syria, China and Russia to urge Israel to back off was outrageous, and completely inconsistent with what Mr. Bush had said before.
The vote seemed a shocking turn-about for us. Was Colin Powell off the reservation, or was Dubya falling prey to the hubris that led Jimmah Carter and Billy Boy to think they could make peace in the Middle East? The answer, fortunately, is neither. In his press conference Saturday, Dubya reaffirmed his commitment to let the Israelis defend themselves. The Prez knows that clear signals are all people can understand. For a few hours, the message was badly muddled. But not anymore. We’re back to serious — as opposed to United Nations — business. Gen. Zinni is no fool, but he’s on a fool’s errand. He should be called back while we concentrate on the methods and means of our defense, and the Israelis’.
First, Arafat and his band of thugs must be thrown out of the West Bank area, and kept a long way away. Too bad the French don’t have Devil’s Island available. The essential element is to deprive him of the ability to control his terror attacks in the West Bank and Gaza. It’s a simple matter of disrupting his command and control, which is the first thing you do to any enemy. If he and his network of funds and guns are disrupted, Israel — and everyone else — will be safer. Make no nevermind about what Arafat says his intentions are. His business, like the “poverty pimps” in this country, cannot continue without the problem he shouts about. Peace puts him out of business, which he can’t tolerate. The Israelis are right to see him only as an enemy, and an obstacle to peace. We cannot say otherwise.
The intelligence information the Israelis obtain in Ramallah will almost certainly implicate Iran, Syria and Iraq. It may show that the Saudis are directly involved in terror, not just financing schools for it. This information needs to be digested not only by the Israelis, but also by Dubya, Dick and Don. When they have it, and if they conclude that it is good enough to act upon, they need to do two things, and pretty quickly.
First, all who are not willfully ignorant know which the terrorist nations are. All the evidence we need to act has been known for months, if not years. The Beirut Arab Summit proved — again — that the Arab nations are not on our side, and will not be regardless of diplomacy. The only way those nations will join us is if they’re convinced it is the only thing they can do to save their own hides.
Those nations that are sponsoring or conducting terrorism need to be labeled publicly, again and again and again. Forget U.N. resolutions, which are subject to veto by the bad guys themselves. Send Colin and Condi off on a diplo-blitz, showing the NATO countries and those such as Japan, India and Pakistan just what we have and ask them to join us in the next round. Make very clear that we will act with them or without them. Show some of the information to the Saudis, the Egyptians, and the Jordanians, one or more of whom are sure to leak it to the terrorists. Tell them they had better get on the train or risk getting run over when it pulls out of the station.
Next, we need to do the job. Iran, Syria, Iraq and the rest need to be dealt with in a manner that ends the terrorist threat to us, and to our allies including Israel. The longer we wait, the more our enemies will mistake caution for inability, and diplomacy for vulnerability.
Jed Babbin was a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense in the first Bush administration and now appears occasionally as a talking warhead on the Fox News Channel.