Palestinians: “Now we will continue the intifada”

The Palestinian Arabs were dealt a serious disappointment this week. Their efforts to affect the Israeli political map failed once again.

In the past months they openly supported Amram Mitzna. “Since Rabin’s murder there has not been a leader as courageous as he. If he is elected, there will be a peace agreement within a year,” said Mohammed Dahlan, Arafat’s security adviser.

Even Arafat, in his convoluted way, tried to exercise influence. Just under a month before the elections he called for a cease-fire on the Palestinian side in order to help Labor in the election campaign, and mostly to get rid of Sharon, “the last bullet in the barrel of the Israeli rifle.”

This, perhaps, is the reason that the blow was so crushing. Not only was Sharon not vanquished, but the Palestinians and their terror policy played no small part in bringing about the sweeping victory of Sharon and the right-wing bloc as a whole, and the collapse of the Israeli left-wing camp.

“Once more we are stuck, and the situation will lead to more terror,” said sources in the security establishment the morning after the election. This assessment is based not only on impressions and analyses of the situation, but on intelligence warnings that the Palestinians are about to begin a new wave of terror.

The Palestinians do not need a new reason to continue terrorism, but the defeat of the peace camp, which leaves them without friends and without hope of a renewed peace process, challenges them to carry out a terror attack in Israel, in order to “send a message” to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. There would be other bonuses to such an attack: Firstly, an attack close to elections would embarrass the prime minister and prove that his promises to bring security, calm, and quiet, are baseless. The Palestinians also believe that attacks inside the territories will be met with less international criticism if Israel is ruled by a right-wing government that supports settlers and continues a policy of force rather than entering negotiations.

“The elections did not open a road to hope, we are going in the direction of fire,” said Dahlan the day after the election. “Our situation, yours and ours, will be much worse.” Hussein a-Sheikh, Fatah secretary in the West Bank, said, “The Israeli people have not understood that the policy of force will not bring security, and elected Sharon yet again. We have no choice but to continue the Intifada.” Hamas and Islamic Jihad spoke in a less moderate tone. Dr. Abd el-Aziz Rantisi, a Hamas leader, promised, “The new government will strengthen the path of jihad and warfare.”