This, unfortunately, is not an April Fools joke. Despite multiple peace efforts, the conflict around the West Bank has been escalating.
There have been almost non-stop suicide bombings over the past several days. Bush and others have called on Arafat to stop the bombings and he of course has not done so. In fact, he has declared that he is ready to become a martyr himself.
Israel has occupied several towns, has troops inside Arafat's headquarters, and has expelled press from Ramallah. A U.N. Security Council resolution issued Saturday called on Israel to pull out of the West Bank, which they of course have not done.
In a speech Sunday, Sharon named Arafat the leader of the Palestinian terrorists and declared war. Can this end with anything other than a wider Arab-Israeli war?
Israelis of all political stripes questioned the aims of the IDF offensive in the West Bank, prompting speculation that if Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's goal was to exorcize his personal dybbuk Yasser Arafat, Israel's focus on Arafat as the godhead of terror could backfire, with the Palestinian leader already taking on the mantle of a living, breathing martyr.
When you find yourself wondering whether the woman with the big coat sitting to your right at the movies is a terrorist in disguise, it becomes difficult to convince yourself that the attack in Netanya was intended solely to get us out of Elon Moreh. If one links the vagueness surrounding the Palestinian demand for the right of return and the mantra "but Barak gave them everything," to the attacks in the heart of Israel, it becomes easy to reach the conclusion that the settlers and the far right are correct in saying that `Judea and Samaria is here, the war is being conducted on our homes, and is better to kill them than to let them kill us.'
- Excerpts with Arafat interviews for Arabic TV stations.
Interview With Al-Jazeera Arafat: "They decided to take me as a prisoner, a deportee, or to kill me. No. I say to them [that I will be] a martyr, a martyr, a martyr, and a martyr. .'And they will be in the front line until Judgment Day'. and 'one of their martyrs [who falls in the battle for Jerusalem] is worth 40 martyrs'... Allah, give me martyrdom in. [Jerusalem], the place from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended to the heavens, and the place our lord Jesus was born. I may be martyred, but certainly one of our boys or one of our girls will wave the flag of Palestine over the walls of Jerusalem, over the minarets of Jerusalem, and over the churches of Jerusalem. 'They think it is distant, but we know it is imminent, and we are right'. 'They will enter the mosque as they entered it for the first time'... This is the path I have chosen. Allah, give me martyrdom..."
"We defend not only Palestine, the Arab nation, and not only the holy Islamic and Christian places - but also all men of freedom and honor in the world. This is our destiny. This is a divine decree..."
"Let those far and near understand: None, among the Palestinian people or the Arab nation, will be willing to bow and surrender. But we ask Allah to grant us martyrdom, to grant us martyrdom. To Jerusalem we march - martyrs by the millions. To Jerusalem we march - martyrs by the millions. To Jerusalem we march - martyrs by the millions. To Jerusalem we march - martyrs by the millions."
"This is a call to the Arab and Islamic nations and to all the Christians in the world. This is the sacred land called in the West 'Terra Sancta,' Holy Land. We defend these holy places..."
"We said to the Americans: You must act. Where are you going? Don't you know this will shake the Middle East? I say to our Palestinian people: 'Oh mountain, the wind will not shake you.' I say to our Arab nation: 'To Jerusalem we march - martyrs by the millions.'"