|This article appears in the October 26, 2001 issue of Executive Intelligence Review. See also:
Sharon Must Be Given an Ultimatum:
by Dean Andromidas
[PDF version of this article]
On Oct. 12, American statesman Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr. warned, "With the state of increasing tension between the present U.S. Bush Administration and the kill-crazed, present leadership of Israel's military command, the world situation has reached the combustible state of affairs, in which something like the old 1970s 'breakaway ally syndrome' can not be considered unlikely." LaRouche's warning refers to Henry Kissinger's 1970s scenario in which Israel would launch a war against its neighbors, aimed at dragging in the United States, and thus provoking generalized warfare--in effect saying, "We have started the war; now, you are going to have to fight it."
Five days after LaRouche's warning, on Oct. 17, Israeli right-wing extremist and Sharon government Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi was assassinated outside his room at the Hyatt Hotel in Jerusalem, claimed by the anti-Arafat Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The assassination puts the Middle East on the brink of war, precisely as the Bush Administration stands poised to sink into a Central Asian quagmire as it hunts for Osama bin Laden in the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan.
Without a moment's hesitation, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon blamed the assassination on Arafat. The Israeli government's expected brutal response to the assassination against the Palestinian Authority could lead to an even wider war, should Israel retaliate against Syria, Lebanon, or Iraq. And if the Bush Administration, in concert with Europe and Russia, does not deliver an message for peace to Sharonand one that sticksthere will be no stopping a war that could become a "Clash of Civilizations," stretching from the Middle East deep into Central Asia.
The Assassination Trigger
Ze'evi was no ordinary Tourism Minister: he was an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) veteran, a Major General, who had played a leading role in Israel's covert assassinations of Palestinians in the 1970s known as "Terror Against Terror." He was also the advocate of the mass expulsion of Palestinians from the Occupied Territories (see accompanying article).
Ze'evi, and fellow National Union party member Avigdor Lieberman, had resigned from the Sharon government on Oct. 14 in protest against Prime Minister Sharon's apparent "capitulation" to the Bush Administration's demand that IDF tanks be withdrawn from the Palestinian territories on the West Bank. Ze'evi's resignation was intendedwith the backing of significant war-monger forces in the U.S. government and U.S.-based Israeli lobbyto stop the U.S. and European insistence that Israel return to peace negotiations. George Bush had even gone "so far" (in their eyes), as to state on Oct. 11, his support for a Palestinian state. "I believe there ought to be a Palestinian state," said Bush, "the boundaries of which will be negotiated by the parties, so long as the Palestinian state recognizes the right of Israel to exist, and will treat Israel with respect and will be peaceful on her borders." Bush's made his statement during the same week that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak called for a Palestinian state, and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi called for a Palestinian state to be created with a "Marshall Plan" for economic development. With these developments, the international pressure was on Sharon to get to peace talks, especially after Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres had gone public with the accusation that forces inside the IDF are planning to assassinate Arafat.
When Lieberman and Ze'evi resigned, Lieberman made no secret that their aim was to stop this pressure for peace. On Oct. 14, he told the press, "Today the holy challenge that Israel faces is how to foil the American initiative ... [where] the starting point would be at which the Camp David talks ended with [Prime Minister Ehud] Barak." He added, "Obviously so long as Shimon Peres is in the Foreign Ministry ... there is no possibility either to oppose or foil the American initiative."
But within hours of Ze'evi's death, Sharon announced closure (lockdown) of all Palestinian territories, and cancelled all contacts between Israel and Palestinian officials. Ze'evi was the first Israeli cabinet minister assassinated by Palestinians since Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the June 1967 war. One leading Israeli commentator told EIR, "Ze'evi has accomplished in his death what he could not accomplish while alive": the end of the peace process and a full-scale attack on the Palestinian Authority.
Ze'evi's assassinationclaimed by the PFLP in revenge for the assassination of its chairman, Abu Ali Mustafa, on Aug. 27is just another bloody confirmation of how far the situation in the region has deteriorated. More than a year after the beginning of the Al Aqsa Intifada, few Palestinians believe that the Sharon government will ever agree to the formation of a viable Palestinian state. Nor do they have much faith in the diplomatic maneuverings of the Bush Administration.
After the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, Sharon and his security chiefs all but ignored Bush Administration requests to move toward solidifying a cease-fire and implementing the May 2001 Mitchell peace plan. This led to behind-the-scenes threats delivered to Israel from Washington, after Sharon denounced Bush as "an appeaser." Sharon, in fact, had escalated the policy of assassinations, closures, military attacks, and occupation of Palestinian-controlled territory in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, despite Bush Administration requests.
But the seeds of this disaster were found in the Bush Administration's policies, one of the biggest weaknesses of which has been Washington's tacit approval of the Sharon government's plan, to systematically take out all Palestinian leadership in the name of "preventive assassination" as a means to fight terrorism. That assassination policy can lead only to disaster.
A senior Israeli intelligence source underscored for EIR, that the assassination of an Israeli was predictable after Israeli forces had assassinated PFLP Chairman Abu Ali Mustafa, considered to be from the moderate wing of the PFLP. As the head of the organization, Mustafa's position was analogous to Arafat, and his murder signalled the intention of the Sharon government to assassinate any senior Palestinian political leader, including Arafat. Also, given the fact that the PFLP has strong ties to Syria, where a faction of its leadership is based, the Mustafa assassination was a clear threat to Damascus as well. The source underscored that, being among the more radical factions, the PFLP would predictably strike back. Indeed, at Mustafa's memorial service, PFLP leaders said that revenge could be expected. Although this source rules out that Syria in any way supported the attack, Israel could use the PFLP's ties to Syria as a pretext to attack Damascus.
The source further stressed that this dangerous situation is the result of a refusal on the part of the Israeli political class, and the Bush Administration, to make the hard decisions that have to be made if peace is to be achieved. They include the establishment of a viable Palestinian state, evacuation of the Jewish settlements, and regional economic initiatives. Unless these decisions are made now, the attempt by the Bush Administration to simply reduce the level of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, will not only fail but lead to the widespread war they hope to avoid.
The 'Breakaway Ally Syndrome'
Whether Ze'evi's death will be used as a pretext for the "breakaway ally syndrome" about which LaRouche warned, is the central issue.
In this repect, the Ze'evi assassination brings to mind the assassination attempt on the Israeli Ambassador to London in 1982, which served as a pretext for the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. That attempt was made by Palestinian "terrorist for hire" Abu Nidal, whom many believe was under contract to the Israelis themselves.
Ze'evi was the embodiment of some of the most extremist views, including for the "transfer" of the Palestinian population from the West Bank and Gaza Strip to other Arab countries. His party, the National Union-Yisrael Beitenu, represented the most radical elements in the Jewish settlers movement. Ze'evi was also one of the key architects and organizers, along with Sharon, of the Jewish settlements, and allegedly used connections he enjoyed with the Israeli mafia to fund the projects. Two days before his assassination, he and Lieberman resigned in protest over what they claimed was Sharon's "caving in" to pressure by the United States to cooperate with the Palestinians on a cease-fire plan.
PFLP spokesman Ahmed Maher, in an interview with Al Jazeera television from Damascus, said his organization took responsibility for the attack. "We announced that the PFLP would react to the crime and that the blood of Abu Ali Mustafa was very precious to us and will not be spilled in vain.... The resistance will continue, there is an occupation and a legitimate resistance." He said the cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians was "a farce we will not abide by."
By contrast, the Palestinian Authority officially denounced the assassination. Palestinian cabinet member Ziyad Abu Zayad declared that the Palestinian Authority is "interested in the cease-fire and in returning to the negotiations table." He also said that the Palestinian Authority would arrest the assassins. Under tremendous international pressure from the United States and Europe, Arafat has declared the military wing of the PFLP to be illegal and has conducted several arrests.
But these demands put Arafat in an impossible position. To the Palestinian public, there is no difference between the assassination of an Israeli politician by a Palestinian group and an Israeli helicopter gunship killing a senior Palestinian leader sitting at his desk in an office in Ramallah, as in the killing of Mustafa. Even senior Israeli security officials know that Arafat is in no position to crack down on Palestinian militants without losing his credibilitya fact that Sharon and his generals are well aware of.
Will Sharon Assassinate Arafat?
Sharon immediately moved to cast the Ze'evi assassination in the same light as the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, as part of transparent ploy to get U.S. support. Sharon constantly refers to Arafat as Israel's Osama bin Laden, a comparison the Bush Administration has rejected. Nonetheless, Sharon used the anti-bin Laden rhetoric of the Bush Administration, stating before the Knesset (parliament), "Everything has changed," and "the situation is different today, and will not again be like it was yesterday." Calling on the "Almighty to avenge his blood," Sharon threatened Arafat, by declaring him personally responsible for the assassination.
Despite Sharon's declaration, the response from President Bush, and other international leaders has been to press even harder for Israel to get to the peace table.
As of this writing, violence has escalated. Israel issued an ultimatum to the Palestinian Authority to arrest and extradite the assassins, and to suppress the PFLP and other Palestinian organizations. Within hours of the ultimatum, Israeli helicopter gunships assassinated three Palestinian militants on Oct. 18. Israeli forces have moved in strength into Area A, under Palestinian control, killing a ten-year-old schoolgirl in the West Bank.
But Sharon is only implementing what he intended to do prior to the assassination. In an Oct. 15 meeting with the Yesha Council, representing the Jewish settlements, Sharon became more and more angry as the settlers accused him of capitulating to American pressure to negotiate with Arafat, until he blurted out: "I haven't changed my mind about that murderer Arafat for the last 30 years." According to media reports, he raged, "Write this down!" and proceeded to declare that he would never allow the Palestinian Authority back into East Jerusalem nor give up the Temple Mount/Al-Haram Al-Sharif, "the holy of holies." He told the settlers, "Friends, you are heroic in this campaign. You've been through a difficult year. But the armydespite your impressionshas broad room for maneuver. It has no limits.... My way is to go for small, consistent actions at three levels: a reaction to every attack, special operations like Beit Jalla or Abu Sneina [this refers to occupying Palestinian territory bit by bit], and focussed preventive attacks [assassinations]." He cautioned that broader moves could bring the Egyptians into Sinai and create the danger of a regional conflict.
When settlers confronted him for saying he supports a Palestinian state, Sharon replied, "What I didn't say [publicly] is that state would be demilitarized, that we would have responsibility for its border crossings, there will be limits on its air space, and we'll still hold security areas. Those areas we don't holdlike Nablus, Ramallah, Kabatiyeh, Jenin, or Jericho, they'll control."
Earlier, Sharon was equally blunt. Senior Israeli military commentator Ze'ev Schiff, in the Oct. 18 issue of Ha'aretz, revealed that in early October, Sharon convened a meeting of his senior security and military chiefs, where it was decided to step up "targetted prevention, the term used for liquidating Palestinians involved in terrorism." And the Israelis have a "long and detailed list of targets." So extreme were the measures and the dangers they would create, that the head of the Shin Bet domestic security service felt compelled to declare, "I want it to be clear ... that terror against Israel will then increase!"
According to Schiff, Sharon himself made the most extreme proposals, declaring "action must be taken against Yasser Arafat." The proposals were so radical that most of those present refused to support them. Schiff underscored that this meeting took place long after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, and was part of Sharon's intention to increase his harsh measures against the Palestinians, despite U.S. pressure.
The scenarios whereby Israel operates as a "breakaway ally" are numerous and horrible. It is in order to avert that disaster that Lyndon LaRouche released his warning on Oct. 12 (see p. 26). For decades, British-connected operatives in the United States, such as Henry Kissinger, who is now a member of the U.S. Defense Policy Board, have run simulated "war-games," counting on the insanity factor in Israel's military coming to the fore as the "breakaway ally." They know Sharon could use the PFLP excuse to launch a strike against Damascus, or against Lebanon, where the PFLP has bases. Sharon could also launch a full-scale assault on the Palestinian Authority. They also know that the threat of such Israeli actions could tip the balance in the United States where, within the Bush Administration, extremists led by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz are calling for attacks against Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon as supporters of international terrorism.
And the "war-gamers" know that any of these actions would galvanize massive protests throughout the Arab and Islamic world, and even lead to the overthrow of key Arab governments, such as Egypt. Either way, if the United States does not take action as prescribed by Lyndon LaRouche, generalized war will be inevitable.