17:21 , 04.19.06



Palestinian Authority
Yossi Ben-Ari
Salvage the PA

Only way to stop deterioration is international effort to save PA
Yossi Ben-Ari

The Passover terror attack in Tel Aviv's old central bus station immediately brought back sad memories from the intifada's difficult years.



After a long period of relative quiet, fears aroused that we are again at the edge of a new cycle of violence and blood that will not lead us anywhere, just like the previous cycles. Yet despite the sorrow, anger, and desire to immediately respond in kind, we should hope that the prime minister's declaration "We'll know how to respond and use all means at our disposal" will be well considered.


This consideration must make a distinction between the Palestinian Authority's presidency, which condemned the attack, and the Hamas movement, whose government indeed views the attack as a "legitimate" move, but which also steers clear of carrying out similar attacks. Then there's the Islamic Jihad, the group behind the attack, which should be handled using bolder patterns than those used against it for a long time now.


The security establishment will certainly find ways to tighten its control over access roads used by Islamic Jihad suicide bombers to travel from the West Bank deep into Israel. The main theater of operations will therefore again be around the Gaza Strip.


In the South too, an illusion of relative quiet prevailed, but the mutual fire of Qassam rockets and IDF shells continued in earnest. Reality cannot hide the sad truth: Even if more intense IDF shelling in Gaza has a "cumulative effect," the likelihood of this turning into the ultimate solution for the Qassam problem is slim.


No less sad is the realization, which most Israelis share, that even if Israel goes back into refugee camps in the form of a ground operation, this would not bring about the hoped for quiet. As was proven before, once the tanks and armored personnel carriers return to Israeli territory, the rockets will continue to land in Ashkelon and Sderot in order to "prove" who has the upper hand.


Preview to real crisis


Recent events in Gaza may prove to be a modest preview to a severe crisis waiting just around the corner. The confrontation between Hamas and Abbas and the Fatah, who refuse to lose stature and income, the catastrophic economic crisis, and the growing diplomatic and economic pressure on the Palestinian government all lead us closer to a large-scale explosion.


Defense Minister Mofaz was right to say that "frustration is not a working plan," but considering the existing limitations, and lacking of a military option, the resolution of the problem should not be assigned to the army, but rather, to politicians. To our regret, our politicians are likely to soon have to deal with a large scale humanitarian disaster and even an escalation in violence, should the Palestinian government have nothing to lose.


When tens of thousands of hungry Palestinians march madly towards the Gaza fences, or once Hamas suicide bombers are again exploding in Israel's cities, the attention given to the convergence plan and the setting of Israel's final-status borders would turn into a forgotten dream.


The only way to stop this deterioration is to get the Palestinian Authority back on its feet, stabilize it, and give it a chance to turn into an independent entity in the future. The PA urgently needs direct involvement of immense extent by the international community, which will need to build everything from scratch.


The PA and the Palestinian people must not be deterred the name of the game at this time is not honor, but rather, survival and existence. Without a babysitter for the next few years, Palestine will completely crumble.


Furthermore, this is a clear Israeli interest: It would be well for our government to agree to any formula that would allow for the rehabilitation of the Palestinian people and its government institutions, even if Hamas is at the helm.


After all, even if we "converge" into permanent borders, we would certainly like to have law and order reinstated on the other side, so that the Qassam model in the south is not adopted along our eastern border as well.


If that will happen, the vision of converge will crumble in bomb shelters in Kfar Saba and Ramat Hasharon.


Brigadier General (Res.) Dr. Yossi Ben-Ari is a former senior intelligence official. Currently he is the co-director of the strategic affairs unit at IPCRI, a joint Israeli-Palestinian organization dedicated to resolving the conflict.