After the bus bombing at the Pat-Gilo intersection, in June 2002, in Sharon’s previous term of office, he deviated from his usual custom and came to the site of the incident. They showed him the bodies. The remains of the organs. The destruction. That day, Sharon shut himself away in his room for hours. He could not, did not want, to get back to his daily routine. There are people who worship Sharon for this quality, some fear him or scorn him: Jewish blood that is spilled by Arabs fills him with anger, hatred, a desire for vengeance. The death of soldiers by Arabs upsets him even more. In the words of someone who worked with him in the past, he flips out.
On Sunday, Sharon was told about the death of five soldiers: Four in a terror attack at the Erez crossing, and one in the casbah of Hebron. He felt that he was the sucker of the Akaba summit. He had gone there with gritted teeth: made Peace Now-style declarations against the occupation; committed himself to evacuate settlement outposts; committed himself to restraining the assassinations; swallowed the derisive whistles of the Right and the ridicule of the Left; even swallowed the allegation that he had become a bonded slave of the US administration.
One of the people who accompanied him on his trip to Akaba compares him to a child walking in the dark. But as for security, the child mutters to himself, security I will not give up. Not that. No way.
He did not expect the country to quiet down at once. The list of warnings did not grow shorter as a result of Akaba-it only grew longer, as was to be expected. But he hoped for one good piece of news. Instead of five kilograms of terror a week, said one of his senior aides, one kilogram. And if not that, at least one wanted man arrested by the PA security forces. One! Instead, he received five dead soldiers.
According to Israeli sources, after Akaba Israel handed Dahlan 15-16 names of “hot” wanted men from the Gaza Strip. Dahlan, they say, did nothing, only complained. Whining, they say, is not a program. Sharon coined this incisive sentence years ago: He originally said it about David Levy.
For two and a half years, Sharon did not touch Abdul Aziz Rantisi. He is considered what the security establishment refers to as a “political figure.” He was first mentioned as a candidate for assassination about a month ago. The proposal was rejected. Now, with his great anger, Sharon thought of him again. In the negotiations between Abu Mazen and Hamas, which were conducted in parallel in Lebanon and Gaza, Rantisi was the most extreme. More extreme than Khaled Mashaal. Even more extreme than Sheikh Yassin. In the meeting that was held at Sheikh Yassin’s on Monday he refused any proposal for a cease-fire. He barely agreed to add a sentence to the Hamas statement saying that talks with Abu Mazen will continue.
He, say the sources, is the man who united all the organizations into a joint terror framework. The attack at Erez was carried out by the three organizations. The interrogation of Hani Shalbi, the Hamas operative who was arrested near Tulkarm, shows that the effort to consolidate one terror front is bearing fruit in the West Bank as well.
If Rantisi is so dangerous, why was he not touched until this week? We misunderstood the pyramid of terror, official sources admit now. The separation between the political leader and “ticking bomb” does not exist. They all deserve to die.
Still, everything goes back to Sharon, to his frustration, to his anger, to the words that he mutters to himself in the dark. If not for Akaba, Sharon would probably not have given the order to kill Rantisi. Akaba did it to him.
This piece ran in Yediot Ahronot on June 13th, 2003