With the Palestinians unable to carry out a single suicide bombing in Israel since March, and Hamas halted from unleashing the large-scale revenge attacks called for after its top terrorist leaders were assassinated, Middle East analysts and politicians are beginning to debate whether the intifada – the terrorist war against Israel started by PLO leader Yasser Arafat after rejecting offers at the Camp David peace summit in 2000 – is coming to an end.
At this time last year, there were 20 suicide bombings killing 141, while 2002 saw 25 such attacks in which 147 Israelis were killed. So far this year, there have been only two bombings in Israel proper, killing 19.
Israel says its tactics clearly are working and that life in the Jewish state may gradually be restored to the way it was before the violence started in 2000. The security fence completed in Gaza and the one being constructed in the West Bank are credited with keeping suicide bombers out, and raids in Palestinian areas and targeted killings of top terrorist commanders seem to be putting Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades on the run and unable to orchestrate attacks.
Also, the downfall of Saddam Hussein, who was paying $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers, is likely a contributing factor to the decline of the violence and incentive of some in the Palestinian population to join with terrorist groups.
The question is whether the trend marks the end of the intifada, or is merely a lull while the terrorists, temporarily decapitated, regroup and rethink.
“There is no doubt that efforts by the PLO to dictate the terms of our surrender and bring about our collapse have failed, they have accomplished none of their goals,” chief Sharon spokesman Raanan Gissin told WND. “Therefore, one can say the intifada has failed, and is now even turning against its own initiators.”
Gissin points out that while Israel “always has and will continue to live with the threat of terrorism,” the Jewish state turned the tables on the jihadists with its forceful anti-terror campaign, and he says the violence will continue to decline.
Gissin says the Palestinian terror apparatus has been hit badly, Arafat has been internationally isolated, and the Palestinian economy has nearly crumbled as a result of the PLO’s strategic decision to launch a terrorist offensive against the Jewish state instead of peaceful negotiations. Ironically, explains Gissin, the intent of the intifada was to demoralize Israel, destroy its economy, bring it to its knees, and force it to surrender to Palestinian demands.
Gissin says if this was a real war, it has ended with an Israeli victory, albeit a bloody one.
Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, concurs.
“While the timetable of Palestinian recognition of failure has been slower than I expected, short of a mega-terror attack, things do seem to be winding down,” he said.
Sources close to Hamas, which is responsible for many of the suicide attacks, say that in the West Bank, where most terror operations originated, the organization has been very badly damaged.
“There is no money to finance operations,” said one. “Many of the leaders are gone and it is difficult to replace them. Hamas needs at least two years to rebuild.”
Malcolm Hoenline, executive vice-chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations feels this was never a real intifada to begin with – not a popular uprising in which the majority of the Palestinian society took part, but was rather a violent terror campaign waged by Palestinian terror groups and coordinated by the Palestinian leadership.
“The Palestinians have been growing increasingly weary and disgusted with their leadership,” Hoenline told WND. “They see they gained nothing while the leaders steal their money and ruin the economy. It may be too early to say the Intifada is over. The terror will continue, but with much less success.”
Hoenline credits Sharon’s plan to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza and parts of the West Bank by 2005 for creating a “new reality” for some Palestinians. He hopes it will cause the Palestinian leadership to take a fresh look at the situation and realize the area is moving into a new phase in which Israel no longer needs the Palestinians as negotiating partners.
Indeed, the Jewish State is going to great lengths to separate from the Palestinians and keep its borders safe from terrorists. As WND recently reported, Israel is currently testing a Star Wars-like remote control border with Gaza that will use unmanned sensor patrol cars and computerized observation posts to spot and, upon human authorization, kill terrorists, even recommending the most appropriate weapon for the system to fire against a specified target.
Israel is also putting to use a centuries-old tactic – an 80-foot-deep moat, possibly to be filled with water, between Egypt and Gaza as a way to keep terrorists from crossing and block them from constructing more arms-smuggling tunnels.
But some in Israel worry the violence may be morphing into a new phase. They fear the Palestinians, unable to infiltrate Israel, may be switching their tactics to firing long-range mortars and Katyusha rockets across the border deep inside Israel.
Just yesterday, Palestinian rockets slammed into a town in southern Israel, killing two people and prompting official Israeli calls for forceful retaliation.
But Gissin says Israel will continue to drive home to the Palestinians that “whatever violence they use against us will bring them nothing but destruction. Eventually, it has to sink in with them.”
Reports say most Palestinians are beginning to realize the intifada is coming to an end. “In the West Bank city of Tul Karm,” writes Isabel Kershner in the Jerusalem Report, “everyone from Yasser Arafat’s governor to the remnants of the Al-Aqsa Brigades says the Palestinian uprising is as good as over.”