“The Ships on the Way”
The ayatollahs do have every interest in arming Arafats opponents:
Hizballah, Hamas and Jihad.
Arafat is interested in a cease-fire - in the
The chiefs of the three big parties in
Israel – the Likud, the Labor Party and the army – were sitting on the
stage. They were frustrated. They knew already that they had not
succeeded in selling the great show that they had prepared with so much
effort: the capture of a ship loaded with weapons, commissioned by the
despicable Arafat. A heroic action, indeed, a second Entebbe.
In one respect
they did succeed: in showing that the borders between these three
power-centers have disappeared. Their chief could be easily switched –
say, Ben-Eliezer to the Likud, Mofaz to Labor, Sharon to the officers –
without causing any change at all. Like the Christian trinity, the three
are one – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The capture of
the ship was described as a sublime act of courage. The soldiers of an
elite unit, using the most advanced technical equipment in the world,
overpowered 13 sleepy sailors on the high seas. That was less dangerous
than the job of three Bedouin soldiers in a position near the Gaza
strip. If General Mofaz needs to tell us that this was equivalent to the
Entebbe raid – a daring and sophisticated commando action – it shows
that under his command the norms of the IDF have slipped a lot.
It is clear
that the army knew all the movements of the ship. Since when? Good
question. From the moment that the weapons were loaded? Already from the
moment the project was decided upon?
It is also
clear that the information was provided by agents installed close to the
action. But where? In the Hizballah headquarters? In Iran? Among the
arms merchants? On the ship itself? And if there was a collaborator on
the ship, who?
behavior is strange, to say the least. He went out of his way to oblige
the Israeli government. Full cooperation. When did that start? Only when
he was captured? Or, perhaps long before that?
The captain was
very happy to tell all to the Israeli reporters, the picked darlings of
Army Intelligence, who played their part in the show. During the
evening, I saw the captain on TV three times. The first time I saw
something that was omitted later. At the end of the interview, the
captain requested: “Tell my daughter that I am a fighter!” Then he broke
into tears and hid his face between his hands. What caused this
outburst? Is he afraid that his daughter might think he is a
collaborator? A traitor?
said that he had received the merchandize at sea, opposite the Iranian
coast, and that he was to turn it over at sea, opposite the Egyptian
coast. If so, how could he possibly know for whom the arms were
destined? Had he been told? That’s strange, considering that the owners
of the cargo did not confide in him. And if they told him something, how
can we know that they told him the truth?
have no interest at all in arming Arafat, a secular leader who they are
trying to undermine. But they do have every interest in arming his
Islamic opponents – Hizballah, Hamas and Jihad. It is logical to assume
that the arms were intended for them.
The short Palestinian coastline in the Gaza Strip is hermetically
sealed. The Israeli naval blockade is impregnable. Could Gaza fishermen
have found the arms beneath the surface of the sea and dragged them to
the shore, under the watchful eyes of the Israeli navy? Sounds pretty
The whole story
does not make sense. It smells of improbability. The more so since all
this happened, of course, exactly on time, when Anthony Zinni was due in
the country in order to impose a cease-fire to which Sharon strenuously
objects (because it would oblige him to freeze all settlement activity).
Hocus pocus – and here is a new pretext for continuing the war against
It seems that the
American suspected much the same thing. It took a major effort of the
Israeli propaganda machine – by far the best in the world – to persuade
President Bush to support Sharon’s version. In the end he was almost
assume for a moment that the whole story is true. Let’s assume that
Sharon, after a delay of 50 years, is now fulfilling Ben-Gurion’s
publicly expressed wish that he, please, stop lying. Let’s assume that
Ben-Eliezer, too, has been converted to telling the truth, and that
Mofaz has become a real soldier again. Let’s assume that this was indeed
Ehud Barak once
said that if he had been a young Palestinian, he would have joined a
terrorist organization. One could add: If Barak had been the leader of
the Palestinian people at this time, he would have done everything
possible to bring in arms, more and more arms.
Like Balaam in
the Bible (Numeri 22), Sharon & Co. set out to curse and ended up
praising - as far as the Palestinians are concerned. Arafat is sitting
in Ramallah, surrounded by Israeli tanks, their cannons aimed at the
windows of his room from 300 meters away. And what is he doing? Instead
of cringing or escaping, he imports modern anti-tank weapons to destroy
the tanks (as his fighters did in 1975 in the alleys of Sidon, when they
destroyed a Syrian tank column.)
There are some
Palestinian intellectuals, like Edward Said, who have been asserting
that Arafat has become a collaborator, a sub-contractor of the IDF and
Shin-Bet. Some good people, Palestinians as well as Israelis, have
written millions of words about the rampant corruption of the
Palestinian Authority. They have asked again and again: Where does the
money go? Why is there no transparency? How come only Arafat and a tiny
group of his confidants know about the secret accounts abroad? Now,
along comes Mofaz and says: The millions were spent on arms. Soon Mofaz
will publish the Palestinian balance sheets, and transparency will come
into its own.
interested in a cease-fire, and therefore is making a great effort to
enforce it. At this point in time, it is in the Palestinian interest.
Many Palestinians say, quite rightly, that by breaking the cease-fire,
Hamas and Jihad are only serving Sharon.
knows full well that Sharon will not accept a cease-fire, and that, if
he is compelled to accept one, he will break it at the first
opportunity, in order to continue building settlements. Sooner or
later, Mofaz will resume his all-out offensive. To withstand such an
attack Arafat needs arms, a lot of arms. Anti-tank and anti-aircraft
weapons, as well as long-range Katyushas for deterrence. The Israeli
contention that Arafat is buying exactly these weapons will raise his
standing among the Palestinians sky-high and fortify his position as
their uncontested leader. Never before has he been more “relevant”.
In the mid-40s,
when ships bearing illegal immigrants were plying the seas and had
become a major weapon in our fight against the British government in
Palestine, the poet Nathan Alterman wrote a song that became a
battle-hymn for a whole nation: “Here’s to the cold and steadfast night,
/ The night of danger and hardship, / Here’s to the little ships,
Captain, / To the ships that are on their way!” Perhaps some
Palestinian poet is now penning a similar song.
That’s how it
looks to the Palestinians. Israelis are, of course, glad that these
arms did not reach their destination, wherever that was. But there is no
power on earth that can prevent the smuggling of arms by a people that
believes it is fighting for its life, its very existence. Indeed, in our
own war of liberation we smuggled arms into the country by all available
means, especially during the periods of cease-fire.
No war is
one-sided. Sooner or later, the Palestinians will find ways to destroy
tanks and down attack helicopters and fighter planes.
It makes sense to make peace before that happens.