Israel _fears withdrawal signals dangerous restraint before Iraq war.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
he scenes from Yasser Arafat's headquar-
ters in Ramallah this week
played tricks on the mind.
. The gaping ruins seemed to
epitomize the collapse of the Palestinian
Authority and demonstrate the P.A. presi-
dent's impotence. But Arafat's smiling emergence
after Israel withdrew its tanks under heavy American
pressure seemed to say just the opposite: that a
resurgent Arafat was back in control, stronger politi-
cally than he had been for months, and that Israeli
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's attempt to humiliate
the Palestinian leader had backfired.
But that was not the worst news for Sharon. The
more dangerous problem, Israeli analysts said, is that
Israel's 12-day siege of Arafat's headquarters had
cemented a subversive linkage in the Palestinian
mind between the Palestinian and Iraqi issues.
It appears obvious that President Bush
had so bluntly insisted on an Israeli pull-
back because he believed the siege was inter-
fering with American plans for a war against
Iraq. The sight of America's strong ally
humiliating an Arab leader did not play well in the
Arab world, where Bush is trying to drum up Arab
support for toppling Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
The firm U.S. intervention clearly made sense
from an American point of view. But for Sharon it
creates a tactical problem: The Palestinians might
now be encouraged to plan major terrorist attacks in
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Writing in the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot, the for-
mer U.S. ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk,
argued that Arafat was likely to conclude that by
"standing firm against Sharon, he could drive a
wedge between the U.S. and Israel.
"The prime minister of Israel must find a way out
of that trap before he finds himself, rather than
Arafat, under heavy American pressure, and his
the belief that America's focus on Iraq essentially ties
In the event of a Palestinian attack, Israel's dilem-
ma would be acute: If it doesn't respond, it risks
encouraging more attacks; if it does respond, it risks
a showdown with Washington.
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