Israel puts the Palestinian Authority to a crucial — and final?
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
fill their road map obligations.
Now, in a reversal of policy, Sharon hopes to put
the burden of proof back on the Palestinians: They
must prevent terror or risk being blamed for the fail-
ure of the hudna, an Arabic term for cease-fire that
has connotations of rearming for future confronta-
"Once they are given control, they will be formally
responsible for what happens in the cities and be in a
position to do something about it," explained Gideon
Ezra, a government minister close to Sharon. "There
will be no more excuses."
Using a strategy it perfected during the Oslo years,
the Palestinian Authority's tactic has been to claim
a one-for-one exchange that grants a veneer of legiti-
macy to the terror attacks.
For example, Islamic Jihad, which claimed the
Jerusalem attack, had warned that it would retaliate
for the killing of its local leader in Hebron last week.
Israeli analysts say the terror groups hope to create a
situation similar to the standoff between Israel and
Hezbollah along the Lebanese border, where any
Israeli attack on Hezbollah militiamen is met with the
shelling of Israeli civilians.
ix weeks after Palestinian terror organiza-
tions declared a temporary cease-fire, the
Israeli-Palestinian peace process is moving
into a critical phase.
Over the next few weeks, Israeli officials predict
that the cease-fire either will stabilize or collapse. The
planned hand over of more West Bank cities to
Palestinian control, they believe, will be a crucial —
and perhaps final — test for Palestinian Authority
In other words, the analysts say, the terror groups are
Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas' government.
exploiting the cease-fire to re-arm,
It was not immediately clear what
while deterring Israeli countermeasures
long-term effect Tuesday's suicide bomb-
by effectively holding Israeli civilians
ing in Jerusalem would have on the
transfers. At least 20 people were killed
"Hamas is not interested in blowing
and 100 wounded in the attack, which
up the cease-fire just now," a senior
was claimed by Islamic Jihad.
Israel Defense Forces source told the
Initially, Israel reacted by freezing the
Ha'aretz newspaper. "But they want to
transfer of the cities — though the sides'
create a mechanism that enables them
underlying interests remain unchanged.
to hit us whenever it's convenient for
In agreeing late last week to hand over
them — to protest the killing or arrest
Jericho, Kalkilya, Ramallah and
of wanted men or the failure to release
Tulkarm, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel
additional prisoners. And Islamic
Sharon hopes the Palestiniap Authority
Jihad, of course, is starting to imitate
will seize the opportunity to show that
it can prevent terrorism from areas it
The handover of the Palestinian
controls, Sharon aides say. But, they
is widely seen in Israel as a last-
make clear, if the experiment fails Israel
to save the cease-fire,
will retake the cities, a move that could
which has been crumbling under
topple the Palestinian Authority and
Israeli counter-terrorism actions and
spell the end of the "road map" peace
Palestinian suicide bombings. Still,
Ezra, a former deputy director of the
The key struggle during the first
Shin Bet security service, said —
phase of the road map has been over the
before Tuesday's deadly suicide bomb-
terrorist weapon: Israel wants it defused;
ing in Jerusalem — that the Israeli
the Palestinians want to keep it in
defense establishment is reasonably
reserve. In this context, the handover of
The scene of horror as paramedics wheel away an injured Israeli woman after a suicide
confident the Palestinian Authority
the cities is part of a subtle diplomatic
bomber blew up a bus in the Beth Israel neighborhood near downtown Jerusalem.
will pass the test and help stabilize the
tango between the sides.
Israel hopes rescinding the transfer
"Take Bethlehem," he says. "Since
will lead to pressure on the Palestinians
handed it over in early July, there
to crack down on terrorists. The
has not been a single terror attack from that city."
weakness and then demand Israeli concessions, such
Palestinians hope they will be able to prevent terrorist
Handing over more cities is a calculated risk, he said,
as prisoner releases and the hand over of cities.
attacks without having to actually dismantle the ter-
but one worth taking.
Ostensibly, such concessions will win the Palestinian
rorist groups or give up the option of renewing vio-
Right-wingers in Sharon's government have
Authority public support, strengthening the govern-
lence if negotiations fail.
denounced the move as a relinquishment of the prin-
ment for the promised confrontation with terrorist
ciple of reciprocity. They argue that the cities are
groups. In reality, however, once the Israeli conces-
being handed over to the Palestinians even though
sions are obtained, the Palestinian Authority invari-
they have done nothing to dismantle the terrorist
ably maintains that they have been insufficient to
Israel initially withheld transfer of the cities as a
merit a crackdown on terror, and urges the Americans infrastructure, as they are obligated to do under the
means of pressuring the Palestinians to crack down.
road map. The Palestinians will see the move "as a
to press Israel for more, Israeli officials complain.
But it didn't work. Since they didn't control the cities,
of weakness" that will encourage more terrorism,
Israel also has been engaged in a battle of wits with
the Palestinians argued, they couldn't be expected to
Minister Limor Livnat said.
stop terrorism emanating from them. Moreover, hold-
ing on to the cities opened Israel to accusations that it
EXAM TIME on page 24
ating quickly for Israeli counter-terrorist operations in
wasn't giving enough to induce the Palestinians to ful-