Tanzim intended to stop terrorism
by Alex Fishman in Yediot Aharonot
An hour and half after the heads of Tanzim agreed on publishing a declaration of a unilateral cease-fire, Israel liquidated Salim Shehade in Gaza. Thus was cut off a two-month old move aimed at achieving a cease-fire. Day before yesterday, at 22:30, the heads of Tanzim, convened at Jenin, approved the text of a communique calling unilaterally for an end to fighting by Tanzim, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. A few hours before, Muhammad Dahlan [influntial former head of Palestinian Security in the Gaza Strip] met with [Hamas Leader] Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, in which meeting Yassin accepted the principles of the cease-fire communique.
In fact, already starting on the past weekend, Sheik Yassin and [senior Hamas member] Abd-El-Aziz Rantisi started making statements aimed at creating a public atmosphere among the public conducive to accepting the cease-fire communique. The Israeli military system ands the country’s high political echelons were briefed officially on Monday by the European Union. In fact, that briefing was not needed, since Israel is already for weeks following the deliberations inside Tanzim on the idea of declaring a unilateral cease-fire without making any immediate demands upon Israel. The Tanzim initiative – backed by the European Community, Saudi Arabia and Egypt – is an ongoing move already deliberated for the past two months. Moreover, the organization’s leader Marwan Barghouti, held in an Israeli prison, was informed of the nitiative, and Palestinian sources say he was expected to give it his endorsement.
One and a half hour after the Tanzim leadership approved the document at its Jenin gathering, Israel carried out the assassination of Salah Shehadeh, in the course of which dozens of civilians were killed and wounded as well. In this way, Israel apparently destroyed the chance to test the viability of a cease-fire. The initiative did not originate from the Palestinian Authority, but from the grassroots level. Arafat was aware of the initiative, but neither led nor impeded it.
But for the Shehade liquidation, the Tanzim communique – calling for an end to suicide bombings, to the shooting of mortar shells and missiles and to any other activity against Israeli civilians – was due to be published already yesterday. Today, it was to be published as an article in the Washington Post and simultaneously in the Palestinian and Israeli press. The US Administration was also briefed on this initiative, though in essence it was internationally sponsored by the EU.
In the course of their two months’ dialogue with the Tanzim, the Europeans were initially sceptical of the Tanzim choosing for a unilateral move, and even more sceptical about the Hamas and Islamic Jihad joining it, but to their surprise it came to fruition at the beginning of this week. During their talks, the Europeans asked the Tanzim leader for their demands upon Israel. The text of the communique spoke of a unilateral cease-fire (se box nedenfor). However, the Tanzim leaders told the Europeans that they were asking for an end to “targeted killings” by Israel, and to the demolition of houses, and for Israel to avoid deportations and withdraw its forces from the Palestinian cities. The Tanzim people were asked for their envisioned timeline of Israeli withdrawal from the cities. Their answer, transmitted also to the Israeli military, was that they would like to get to January 2003, when Palestinian Authority elections are due to take place, with the cities free of Israeli mitary presence. Israeli military elements who were aware of the Tanzim move being formulated took it seriously. They made, however, the reservation that the Tanzim was in fact seeking to delay by about a year the decision in the conflict with Israel. They said that the Tanzim communuqe made no reference to essential issues such as the Right of Return, and that it continues to back Arafat.
In the defence establishment it was yesterday emphasized that they give no weight whatsoever to the Tanzim’s projected communique, and that Hamas was not going to be a party to it.