JERUSALEM (May. 16)
The Israel Defense Force has launched a new offensive in the administered territories, apparently intended to show the Palestinians that the alternative to backing Israel’s proposed peace plan could be quite unpleasant.
No official explanation for the crackdown has been given. But it coincides with the start of an intensive Israeli campaign at home and abroad to promote its peace initiative, which was approved by the Cabinet on Sunday.
Persuasion and reason are being used to try to convince Palestinian dignitaries. The Palestinian masses, however, are being subjected to hardship.
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, one of the principal authors of the plan, met with 15 influential Palestinians on Monday to explain it.
He told them the plan offers a chance to finally solve the Palestinian problem, and he urged them not to “waste the opportunity, as you have done in the past.”
Rabin may have made some headway, insofar as not all of the Palestinians at the meeting rejected the plan outright. The defense minister seems confident that more meetings of this kind could create pressure by local leaders on the Palestine Liberation Organization to change its negative position.
The PLO leadership in Tunis has labeled the Israeli peace plan “a farce.”
The tough measures the IDF is taking in the territories are apparently intended to convince the Palestinians that rejection of the peace plan will have only unpleasant consequences.
WORKERS ORDERED HOME
On Monday evening, a blanket curfew was clamped on the entire Gaza Strip. It differed from hundreds of past curfews in that it was ordered with little prior notice and was not in response to any specific disturbances by the Palestinians.
In fact, the territory has been relatively quiet in recent days.
At the time the curfew was announced, Arabs from Gaza working inside Israel were ordered to leave and return to their homes immediately. It is the first time such an order has been issued to the tens of thousands of Gazans who are employed in Israel.
No official explanation for the move was given. A senior military source said the measure was taken in view of “violent acts by residents of the territories within Israel proper,” resulting in new tension between Jews and Arabs.
Anti-Arab sentiments boiled over in the southern Israeli coastal cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod last week.
Jewish youths stoned Arab vehicles and individual Arabs were assaulted and beaten in the streets, following discovery of the body of Sgt. Avi Sasportas, an IDF paratrooper missing since Feb. 16 who is believed to have been murdered by Arab abductors.
The military source claimed that “the curfew has proven itself as an effective way to reduce violations of public order.” The source admitted it was collective punishment, affecting innocent and guilty alike.
“We want the residents of the territories to realize that they cannot act violently and escape punishment,” the source said.