Why Arafat Went to War: The Wrong Lessons from Lebanon and Kosovo (JCPA-JERUSALEM CENTER FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS) Vol. 1, No. 24 JERUSALEM ISSUE BRIEF 06/19/02)
JCPA-Jerusalem Center Public Affairs
JCPA-Jerusalem Center Public Affairs Articles-Index-Top
When Yasser Arafat unleashed terrorist violence against Israel in
September 2000, he was applying mistaken lessons from the conflicts
in Lebanon and Kosovo, according to Brig. Gen. Eival Gilady, speaking
at the inaugural lecture of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at
the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on May 27, 2002.
Gilady, head of the IDF´s Strategic Planning Branch, explained that
prior to Israel´s withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, Arafat
witnessed Israeli reactions to the average loss of 25 IDF soldiers
annually. Arafat saw a strong movement arise in Israeli society that
applied effective pressure on the nation´s decision-makers and asked
them some very tough questions: “What are we doing there? Why should
we pay that price? Twenty-five soldiers a year? Can´t we defend
ourselves from the international border?”
Arafat thought to himself, "Twenty-five soldiers a year? That´s easy.
I can give them 250 deaths a year. If I can provide a large enough
number of casualties, Israeli society will ask the same tough
questions: ´What are we doing in the West Bank? Why can´t we pull out
of there? Why stay in the Gaza Strip?´" Arafat thought he could
achieve much more this way than at the negotiating table.
In Kosovo, Arafat saw a small minority of Moslems, the Albanians
(attacked by Serbs), bring in the whole world to intervene -- not
only politically but also militarily. Arafat´s plan was to create a
large number of casualties among the Israeli people in order to
achieve the required pressure on the decision-makers, on the one
hand, and on the other, to provoke Israel to respond excessively, so
that there would be enough casualties on the Palestinian side to
force the world to intervene.
Israel´s Restrained Response
Arafat´s strategy led to an Israeli counterstrategy of restraint. "We
understood that we needed not only to minimize the number of
casualties on our side, but that it was very important that we
minimize the number of casualties on the Palestinian side as well. So
the IDF adopted an overt strategy of very strong restraint, much more
defense than offense. We sought to do everything possible to minimize
the number of casualties not only on our side but also on the other
All of the Palestinian terrorist organizations are involved in
attacks against Israel. Arafat´s Fatah organization is responsible
for 42 percent of the attacks; Hamas 39 percent; Palestinian Islamic
Jihad 9 percent; and the PFLP 3 percent. "Most of the terror
activities carried out in the last few months, not just in the last
few weeks, are being carried out by Fatah, and we expect a lot more
in the way of results from the Palestinian Authority in stopping
terrorism than we have been getting."
The Karine-A Weapons Ship
The Palestinian Authority´s arms procurement operation that
culminated in the capture of the Karine-A in early January 2002
actually began in May 2001. After the September 11 attack, the
Palestinian Authority must have asked itself whether to continue the
smuggling operation, and a decision was taken to do so. "While the
entire world focused on terrorism and tried to understand what should
and should not be done, what are legal and what are illegal weapons,
the Karine-A operation continued."
The Karine-A affair also uncovered the involvement of the Iranians in
the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. "The Iranians wanted to gain a
foothold in Israel. Today they can threaten the northern part of
Israel through the Hizballah, from Lebanon." Providing katyusha
rockets to the Palestinians would mean that most of Israel´s
population centers would be within range of terrorist weapons. "Just
imagine millions of people in Tel Aviv or Netanya or Hadera or Beer
Sheva living in shelters, not being able to send their kids to school
or go to work."
Operation Defensive Shield
Terrorists killed 130 Israelis in March. "We have understood for a
very long time that the Palestinian Authority was allowing terror. At
a certain point we understood that they encouraged terror. At a
certain point we understood that they funded terror. At a certain
point we understood that they were very deeply involved in terror.
After Operation Defensive Shield, we found evidence that the highest
level -- the chairman of the Palestinian Authority -- was personally
involved in supporting, funding, encouraging, and knowing of
terrorist actions against us."
"Every day in March we received 8 to 10 warnings of planned attacks
against Israel. We were able to prevent 80-90 percent, but some
succeeded, and we suffered: 15 people killed in a restaurant, 29
killed on Passover, another 15 in another restaurant, seven on the
street, five in a shopping mall. The situation was impossible. We had
to launch Operation Defensive Shield."
The Fighting in Jenin
In some areas in Jenin every house had explosive booby-traps. When
the Palestinian security officials were asked when their forces had
last entered the Jenin refugee camp, the answer was, "Never."
Terrorist attacks originating in Jenin killed 93 Israelis and wounded
over 640 during the last 18 months. In the Jenin fighting, 52
Palestinians -- mostly combatants -- were killed and 23 Israeli
soldiers lost their lives. "Is this a massacre?" Gilady asked. "Let
me tell you what I think is a massacre. When someone goes into a
restaurant, and he is the only one armed and no one there has any
intention to do him harm, and he blows himself up, that is a
massacre. When he comes to a disco full of teenagers and he blows
himself up, that is a massacre."
"In Jenin we did whatever we could to get all the civilians out.
There is no military force that would have operated in an urban area
the way we did. There were no air force strikes or artillery
bombardment. Infantrymen went door-to-door, house-to-house, doing
whatever they could to get the civilians out."
"Other armies would have used artillery. The reason why we did not
was not because there was outside pressure or because of world public
opinion. It is because of Israeli norms and values. The Israel
Defense Forces will never put itself in the position of doing
something that Israeli society will not accept."
In fact, the IDF combined its military operation in Jenin with
a "huge humanitarian operation. We pushed more food trucks into Jenin
than usually reach the city each month in order to be sure that there
was no hunger. We brought oxygen and generators to the local
hospital. We offered blood, but they didn´t want our blood, so we
allowed our colleagues, the Jordanians, to fly in blood. When three
of their ambulances were damaged by our tanks, we provided three new
ambulances. They didn´t want them. It was much more important to
accuse us on television than to get three new ambulances."
(www.jcpa.org. © Copyright. 06/19/02)
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