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July 22, 1994 - Image 54

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-07-22

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assir Arafat's triumphal
return to his homeland
looked like a tough act to
follow. But the radical
Muslim opponents of the peace
process managed to match it
rather handily, dousing whatev-
er sparks of grace the Gaza-Jeri-
cho agreement had kindled for an
increasingly weary Israeli pub-
Their strategy was all too fa-
miliar. First, attacks by Hezbol-
lah forces in the south Lebanon
Security Zone, which took the
lives of two soldiers in less than
a week. Then, the murder of
Aryeh Frankental, 19, a soldier
kidnapped and executed by a
Hamas terrorist squad inside the
Green Line, and of Sarit Pre-Gal,
17, the victim of a drive-by shoot-
ing on the road from Hebron to
Kiryat Arba.
The timing of the attacks
seemed calculated to sour the
mood of both Prime Minister
Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chair-
man Arafat just as it reached its
height. News of the murders
greeted Mr. Rabin upon return-
ing to Israel from a two-day vis-
it to Paris, where he shared with
Mr. Arafat (and Foreign Minis-
ter Shimon Peres) a prestigious
UNESCO Peace Prize. The re-
sumption of fundamentalist ter-
rorism, following a respite since
the deployment of the Palestin-
ian police in Gaza and Jericho,
was particularly galling to both
Mr. Rabin and Mr. Arafat since
they had just agreed to advance
to the next stage of the peace
process: extending autonomy to
West Bank Palestinians.
Thus, how to respond to the
murders in the already over-
heated climate created by Mr.
Arafat's arrival was a particularly
thorny problem for Mr. Rabin.

His advisers counseled him to
take prompt, drastic action
against Hamas in the West Bank
(which is still under Israeli con-
trol). Yet more than ever, his free-
dom to maneuver was constricted
by the need to spare Mr. Arafat
chagrin as he began consolidat-
ing his authority on his own turf.
To help bolster his standing,
the PLO chief had asked Mr. Ra-
bin to accelerate releasing the
7,000 Palestinians still in Israeli
jails, including Hamas leader
Skeikh Ahmed Yassin. A gesture
of that sort was now out of the
But the problem of how to bal-
ance his own need for public sup-
port against that of Mr. Arafat
remained a ticklish one. Fortu-
nately for Mr. Rabin, the resi-
dents of Kiryat Arba rushed in to
save the day. In several hours,
they transformed the issue of the
day from an Israeli-Palestinian
problem — the impossibility of
achieving peace while terrorism
continues — into an internal Is-
raeli affair: The well-worn mat-
ter of trampling the rule of law.
Chastened by the massacre of
29 Hebronites last February by
one of its leading citizens, Kiry-
at Arba's residents seemed to
have retired into a sullen silence.
But following the murder, vio-
lence again erupted in the town.
After completing the usual course
of shattering windows, trashing
cars and burning the fields of
their Palestinian neighbors, hun-
dreds of settlers invaded a de-
velopment of 54 new apartments
that the Housing Ministry has
kept empty as part of its freeze
on public housing in the territo-
ries. It took the intervention of
President Ezer Weizman and a
promise by Housing Minister
Benyamin Ben-Eliezer to hear

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