More often than not, when you hear a news report of an Arab terror attack in Israel, the news reporter will say that this attack was the result of Islamic extremists, whether they are from the Hamas or the Islamic Jihad. The announcer usually declares – deadpan – that Arafat?s agencies, the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organiztion) and Arafat’s administrative arm, the PNA (Palestinian National Authority), are simply not involved. The rationale, after all, for Israel and Western countries to arm Arafat’s security forces was that he would use such arms to crush Islamic terror organizations.
Almost eight years ago, when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shook hands with Yassir Arafat on the White House lawn, most people in Israel and abroad expected that Arafat would form a new Arab entity to restrain the violent Moslem movements known as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
That was the rationale behind what later became known as the Oslo Peace Process, wherein Israel was expected to cede land for a new Palestinian Arab entity, while Arafat’s PLO was expected to fight Hamas/Islamic Jihad and other Arab terror groups that continued to threaten the lives of Jews in Israel.
Yet, from day one, the opposite has occurred: instead of cracking down on Hamas, Arafat has created an alliance with them. When I asked him about Hamas at his press conference in Oslo where he was about to receive the Nobel Peace Prize in December, 1994, Arafat answered, “Hamas are my brothers. I will handle them in my own way”.
And when the PLO celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in January, 1995, Arafat delivered a series of lectures to his own people in Gaza and in Jericho, praising suicide bombers and refusing to condemn the spate of Hamas terror attacks which had taken place at the time Arafat’s speeches of praise for Hamas were televised by the new Palestinian TV network, the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, that is owned, controlled and operated by Arafat himself. Video cassettes of Arafat?s harangues became popular in the Palestinian Arab open market.
Arafat?s strategy was best summed up by U.S. Ambassador to Israel and presidential confidante Martin Indyk, who told the Los Angeles Times on March 1, 1996, that Arafat had decided to co-opt, rather than to fight, the Hamas. Arafat’s co-option of the Hamas was not only in words but in deeds.
On May 9, 1995, our news agency dispatched a Palestinian correspondent to cover the Gaza press conference held by Arafat?s local Palestine Liberation army police chief Ghazzi Jabali, in which the representatives of Arafat?s Palestine Authority officially announced that they would license weapons for the Hamas – this, only one month after Hamas had carried out an attack on an Israeli civilian bus near Gaza, killing six young Israelis and one American student, Aliza Flatow. Two days after that attack, the Voice of Israel carried a news item that the PA would indeed licence weapons for the Hamas. That news item was soon changed from “license” to “confiscate”.
At Jabali’s packed press conference, carried live on PBC radio, Jabali announced that Hamas leaders such as Dr. Muhammed Zahar – who was present at the meeting – would be allowed and even encouraged to own weapons under the protection of the Palestine Authority. On the same day, our Palestinian TV crew filmed an armed Zahar, standing in front of a skull and crossbones imposed on a map of Israel, as he addressed an angry mob in Gaza and called for the bloody overthrow of the State of Israel. PA police chief Jabali would later assure the Associated Press on May 14, 1995 that he was expecting Hamas and Islamic Jihad to “keep their licensed weapons at home”.
In late October, 1995, shortly before Prime Minister Rabin’s assassination, I asked him at a public forum about Arafat?s decision to provide weapons to the Hamas. Rabin acknowledged that this practice existed and quipped, “Maybe they’re for peace, too”.
For the past six years both Hamas and Islamic Jihad have openly operated with weapons licensed by the P.A. Meanwhile all levels of Arafat?s miliary forces acknowledge that they have recruited radical Islamics to join forces with them.
Arafat?s alliance with Hamas was exposed when the semi-official Egyptian newspaper Al Aharam broke the story of the formal PLO-Hamas accord, signed between the two organizations on December 15, 1995, in Cairo. That accord allowed Hamas to carry out attacks in “areas of Palestine that had not yet been liberated”. PLO General Secretary Marwan Bargouti, justifying a Hamas attack at a bus stop on the outskirts of Netanya, appeared on Saudi Arabia’s MBC TV and explained that the PLO could not condemn such an act since the territory “was not yet liberated” by the PLO.
And on each occasion when Arafat was asked to “crack down” on these Islamic groups that took credit for fatal terror bombs against Israel, he ordered the mass roundups that resulted in mass confessions followed by mass release of prisoners.
In thirty-seven documented instances since 1994, the Palestine Authority has offered asylum to Hamas and Islamic Jihad members who murdered Israelis and took refuge in the new safe havens of Palestinian Arab cities that were protected by Arafat’s armed forces.
Under pressure from Israel and Western countries, Arafat eventually did arrest twenty-two Hamas members who had been involved in bus bombings throughout Israel between 1994 and 1996 – all of whom were released at the latest round of riots that broke out in September, 2000.
A case in point. Muhammad Deif roams Gaza freely, armed and at liberty. Deif is the admitted Hamas mastermind of the October, 1994 kidnapping and killing of Nachshon Wachsman, the nineteen-year-old American Israeli. When I asked Arafat?s commander of the Palestine Liberation Army about Deif, he told me that he was under direct orders from Yassir Arafat not to touch Deif.
This, despite the fact that U.S. President Bill Clinton declared at Nachshon Wachsman?s grave in March, 1996, that Israel should not continue any negotiating process with Arafat and the Palestine Authority until and unless Arafat hands over Deif to stand trial.
Many close followers of the Middle East situation wrongly assume that the two entities – the PLO and the Hamas – are in conflict when, in fact, they closely coordinate every move under the administrative framework of the Palestinian National Authority, which represents the Palestinian state-in-the-making.
Our news agency has obtained a copy of the PNA-approved constitution of the new Palestinian state, jointly agreed upon by the PLO and the Hamas. That document, whose cover page thanks UNESCO and the Italian government for funding its law committee, declares that Islam will be the state religion of Palestine, that its borders will encompass all of Palestine – not just the west bank and Gaza – and that no other religion will have any status in the future Palestinian state.
And yet an unwritten rule seems to exist in the media – even in the Israeli press – to downplay any reportage of the PLO-Hamas alliance and their confluence of objectives.