President Yasser Arafat, following his meeting with Javier Solana, the European Union’s highest foreign policy official, announced the formation of a committee to investigate matters regarding the ship Karine A (which Israel hijacked in international waters at a point 500 kilometers away from Eilat’s regional waters).
President Arafat invited the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations to participate in the investigation so as to transform it into an international investigation in order to uncover Israeli manipulation and conspiracy aimed at disabling moves towards a political solution and the establishment of peace in the region.
With this President Arafat has put an end to the Israeli government’s attempts to use this operation to incite the United States and Europe against the Palestinian Authority and its head Yasser Arafat, and also in order to regain part of the popularity that Sharon and his government are losing on the Israeli street.
Inciting against the Palestinian Authority and President Arafat is an essential part of Sharon and his government’s plan to prevent the implementation of the American vision of a political solution and the establishment of peace in the Middle East. This is because the American vision fundamentally contrasts with Sharon’s political agenda, which aims at preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state and taking the lands in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The incitement against the Palestinian Authority and President Arafat at this particular time is aimed at thwarting the efforts of the American envoy General Anthony Zinni which were supposed to lead to the implementation of the Tenet-Mitchell package as a preface to implementing the American vision of the final status; that is, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with complete sovereignty over the lands occupied by Israel in 1967.
As for Sharon and his government, the so-called talk of peace and acceptance of the Mitchell recommendations are a cover in order to move forward the implementation of their plan to eliminate the Palestinian National Authority and eliminate its leaders and its President. The strategic choice for the government and its head Sharon is to seize the Palestinian lands after eliminating the Authority, its leaders and its head through continued military attacks, tightening the suffocating siege and holding the Palestinian people in their cities and villages, including President Arafat whom this government is holding in the city of Ramallah in full view of the whole world.
What Sharon and the commanders of the occupation army have claimed, that Yasser Arafat has changed his position and adopted the strategy of using violence to achieve his political goals, is but an attempt to prevent the world from talking about the fact that Sharon’s government’s choice is what has changed Israel’s positions causing it to cancel agreements and to use all types of weapons to make the Palestinian people submit to Sharon’s government’s colonial agenda.
General Zinni was almost at the point of starting the implementation of the Tenet-Mitchell package following President Arafat’s speech last December to the Palestinian people and to world public opinion. In this speech President Arafat reiterated that the Palestinian people’s strategic choice is that of peace and negotiations, and not war, in order to reach a political solution based on international legitimacy resolutions.
The operations carried out in Haifa and Jerusalem, however, gave Sharon invaluable help in persuading President Bush not to push towards implementing the Mitchell recommendations and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. The PA’s success in implementing the commitment to a cease-fire and honoring the Authority’s decisions announced by President Arafat did however make the American administration send General Zinni once again to the region, to set up the arrangements for implementing the Mitchell recommendations.
In spite of the continued Israeli attacks and the occupation army’s attempt to provoke the Palestinians into responding to these attacks, the calm continued in a manner that disturbed Sharon’s government and the occupation army commanders, because it provided an opportunity for the Americans to once again push towards the implementation of the Mitchell committee recommendations.
As a result of this continued calm General Zinni arrived in the region and began consultations to implement the agreements. Sharon insisted on the seven-day period and the Americans told him that they thought the calm the Palestinian lands are witnessing is enough to begin implementing the Tenet-Mitchell package.
General Zinni pushed strongly for meetings of the higher security committee to be held to agree on a timetable. He was supported in this by Javier Solana, Andre Vidoven (Russia) and Terje Larsen (UN). Sharon then pulled the ship Karine A out of his hat.
This trick did not however fool anyone this time. Javier Solana announced that the implementation of the Mitchell recommendations should begin immediately, and so did Vidoven and Larsen. Zinni went back to inform U.S. Secretary of State Powell of his conviction that the implementation of the Mitchell recommendations must begin immediately. The spokesman for the U.S. State Department announced that Zinni would return to the region within one or two weeks to resume his mission.
I have no doubt that Sharon and his government will escalate matters to a dangerous extent before Zinni comes over, in order to thwart the American efforts aimed at implementing the Mitchell recommendations and beginning political negotiations. Matters could reach the point where Sharon’s government would adopt a new position by which the Israeli government would consider Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority parties hostile to Israel, thus providing war criminals with the opportunity to carry out a new military campaign that will reach the Authority’s leadership, and President Arafat personally.
Not only this, but this military campaign against the Authority and its President will also declare the beginning of military campaigns on a wider scale in the entire region, especially against Iraq. Sharon and his government are hoping that these campaigns will lead to a reshuffle of the region and that Israel will regain its role as a military base in the Middle East to protect the interests of the West and fight terrorism.
Sharon and his government are undoubtedly dreaming of the day when the entire Arab region comes under the influence and intimidation of the Israeli might. Syria has received threats and warnings from Israel more than once through the United States. The purpose of the visit of a Congressional delegation to Damascus these days is to give a final warning and give Syria the choice between remaining on the list of countries supporting terrorism (and they know what this means these days), and restraining Hizbulla and the Palestinian organizations with headquarters in Syria.
Israel’s announced control over the Red Sea (through the Karine A operation) is a warning to the Arab countries which have the Red Sea as their semi-private lake. The file Sharon took with him to President Bush during his last visit to Washington included an Israeli plan set up to direct preemptive strikes at Iraq, under the pretext of Iraq being a threat to the security of Israel and to the lives of Israeli citizens. Shimon Peres’s trip to India comes to complete the picture.
Discussions were held with Peres, who is accompanied by high-ranking security officials, about Indian-Israeli cooperation to strike at Pakistan because Israel considers the Pakistani military might and the Iranian military might a direct danger to the security of Israel – strategically. This has worried Iran, and it has every right to be worried because Israel’s interference in the affairs of Central Asia is an attempt to surround Iran and Pakistan. Israel entering the Afghani scene for the first time under an American and European umbrella will undoubtedly constitute a great danger for Iran and Pakistan.
If we remember that the Sunday Times published several months ago a serious article about three Israeli submarines capable of firing nuclear and Tomahawk missiles spending three months under the surface of the Persian Gulf waters, then we know the danger of the role Sharon’s government is trying to play regionally.
The arrogance of Israel’s power can be seen by everyone regionally and internationally, and the confrontation to restrain this arrogance must start in Palestine as soon as possible. Time is running out and Sharon’s plan to crush the Palestinian Authority and confiscate Palestinian lands is coming close to implementation.
The situation is dangerous, certainly more dangerous than many imagine, and the Arab countries are required to move fast.
Bassam Abu-Sharif is a special advisor to President Arafat.