Bombing may be the beginning of Abbas's end, By Arieh O'Sullivan
Arieh O'Sullivan Aug. 21, 2003
About a week ago, Islamic Jihad terrorists in the Gaza Strip made a fatal mistake. They were assembling a nasty bicycle bomb, one where the explosives were hidden inside the tubing of the bike that would later be ridden by a suicide bomber.
But before they could dispatch the bomber to an Israeli target, they made the mistake of parking it near the headquarters of Palestinian Authority Minister of Security Muhammad Dahlan in Jabalya where it exploded prematurely causing little damage.
Dahlan quickly dispatched masked officers from his Preventative Security Service and they stormed the house where the Islamic Jihad men were sitting. The officers summarily drilled bullets through two of them who died on the spot. Three others were carted off to prison without trial and have remained there ever since.
This shows that when it comes to his own security, Dahlan knows how to act. It also lends credence to those in the defense establishment who believe that Dahlan can act decisively when he chooses to, but simply doesn't want to crack down on terror groups.
So the question is, does the Palestinian Authority have not only the guts, but the capability, to take the dramatic steps that the United States is pressing them to take to keep the shaky road map plan on the map?
That a strike against Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah-Tanzim renegades and the Marxist PFLP will come is certain. The question is, who will do it first? The Palestinians interested in preserving the most promising progress towards statehood in years, or a seething Israel, certain the so-called hudna vaporized in Jerusalem's deadly bombing of worshipers returning from Judaism's holiest site?
The Israeli defense establishment is split regarding the PA's capability to confront the armed groups. It is generally believed that Dahlan can act effectively in the Gaza Strip, his stronghold, despite the popularity of Hamas. Military intelligence believes that Dahlan will also be able to take decisive action in the West Bank where Hamas and Islamic Jihad is weaker.
But the Shin Bet has little faith in Dahlan's capabilities in the West Bank. This is because chaos reigns and the preventive security services are quibbling among themselves and are against letting "the Gazan" (Dahlan) "stick his nose here." Col. (res.) Shalom Harari, former adviser on Arab affairs in the Defense Ministry, believes that the PA under Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas is too weak and PA Chairman Yasser Arafat is undermining the success of the road map.
"[Abbas] doesn't have the minimum tools, i.e. the consolidation of all the security forces. Arafat has been able to keep control of many of the Palestinian security forces, include Force 17, intelligence and even the Preventative Security Services in the West Bank." The coming days will tell which side is right.
Meanwhile, the Defense establishment is even being told that Dahlan and Abbas are "impotent."
Israel has always hung a Damocles sword over the Palestinian Authority with the ultimate threat of sweeping it into history's garbage can as yet another failed phenomenon to win the Palestinians statehood.
But this time around, Israel's options are limited since it wants to stick to the road map.
"We don't want to go stage an Operation Defensive Shield II," said Deputy Defense Minister Ze'ev Boim, referring to last year's offensive in the West Bank.
"It is clear we can not accept this quietly and we will act against these murderous organizations."
Boim also dismissed the US pressure on the Palestinians.
"When is there heavy American pressure? When there is a terrible attack," Boim said.
"We would expect American pressure on the Palestinian Authority from the beginning. I never saw this and it's like they suddenly remembered that the blood of our children is crying to the heavens."
The PA says it is against taking actions that could spark a civil war between it and the Islamic bloc. It has preferred instead to come to arrangements with winks and bear hugs and temporary cease-fires.
Jerusalem's suicide bombing symbolized a number of things. It marked for most Israelis the end of the hudna. If the present Palestinian leadership doesn't take the right steps to save themselves, then this moment will be remembered as the beginning of the countdown to the resignation of Abbas.