On the night between the 9th and 10th of March, realizing that Israel was firm in its decision to build on Har Homa, Arafat gave the signal to renew terror attacks. He also released the leader of Hamas’ secret military arm from prison, against the advice of his aides. But the assessment is that Arafat will prevent violence if Israel accepts his demands on the further redeployment in the territories.
At a secret meeting with opposition organizations about two weeks ago, Arafat gave a “green light” to resume terrorist attacks against Israel.
A senior official reported this to Israel’s cabinet ministers and the American administration over the weekend. During a meeting on the night between 9-10 March, held after Arafat’s return from the United States — when he realized that Israel is determined to build on Har Homa — the head of the PA demanded from the opposition and from representatives of “Tanzim,” the Fatah activist group which does his bidding, that they prepare stormy, mass demonstrations throughout the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
The senior source assesses that Arafat is trying to pressure the Israeli government to reach a deal. Should Israel accept Arafat’s demands, and should the United States guarantee their implementation, Arafat would prevent the eruption of violence, despite the construction on Har Homa.
Following are the demands:
- An Israeli commitment that the next “Further Redeployment” on the West Bank will be far more substantial and meaningful than the current one.
- Refraining in the future from unilaterally establishing facts on the ground, as Israel has done on Har Homa. This commitment would mean that Israel would refrain completely from establishing new settlements, or expanding existing settlements in the territories, including in Jerusalem.
- Opening the airport at Dahaniya to aircraft and passenger traffic, with virtually no Israeli monitoring of arrivals. Arafat is demanding that, as of next month, Palestinian pilgrims should use Dahaniya to fly directly to Mecca and back.
- Opening the “safe passage” between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
- Building an independent Palestinian sea port in Gaza.
According to reliable information received by political figures in Israel, at the night-time meeting Arafat convened senior officials from Hamas, the Islamic Salvation Front, the PFLP and the DFLP (Islamic Jihad did not participate). At the end of the meeting, which lasted nearly until dawn, all of the representatives of the organizations understood that the PA chairman is giving them a free hand to carry out attacks against Israel.
This was contrary to a previous agreement which Arafat had reached with representatives of these organizations on the eve of his trip to the United States, according to which they would refrain from terrorism until Israel completes the third redeployment.
On the morning following the meeting, Arafat took another step: he released from jail the leader of Hamas’ secret military wing, Ibrahim Maqadma, who bears responsibility for many attacks committed in the past three years against Israelis and against Palestinian policemen. Maqadma’s release was effected against the advice of Palestinian Preventive Security heads and other Palestinian security officials.
Israeli security sources say that there is already a noticeable increase on the ground of stone-throwing and attacks with “Molotov cocktails.” The stabbing of a soldier at the Tene Omarim settlement, and the two shooting incidents against IDF patrols over the weekend in the Rafiah area, are also being credited to the new “understanding” between Arafat and the rejectionist organizations. In an interview to the Washington Post, Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Mahmud a-Zahar, warned that “the failure of the peace process will push people to other methods — when they are pushed into a corner, you can expect anything.”
Yet, the senior official notes that for the time being Arafat is demanding that Palestinian police refrain from using firearms in the framework of the mass demonstrations that will be held in protest over the beginning of work on Har Homa. The assessment is that this order will not be honored, if the Israeli security forces use firearms and cause the death or injury of many Palestinians. Political sources in Jerusalem believe that in the event of a violent flare-up, Egypt, Jordan and other Arab countries are also liable to join the political campaign against Israel, to the point of suspending diplomatic relations with it.