"Nothing that's happened in recent days is due to chance. Cold bloodedly, with the patience of an old hunter who knows the weak points of his prey, Sharon threw out his snare-nets from the moment he became prime minister. The prey managed to save himself and slip away, but this week he got caught in the nets."
In the weekend supplement of the major daily Yediot Aharonot, journalist Alex Fishman explains how "Sharon prepared his trap" aimed at putting Yasser Arafat "out of the game", starting with a "plan" worked out "even before the election" of February 2001. The plan carries the name of its author, Reserve General Meir Dagan, who was [Sharon's] security adviser during his election campaign. Today he is Israel's representative to the special emissary of the U.S. President in the region, Anthony Zinni.
The "Dagan plan" is based in two unalterable premises: "One, Arafat is a murderer, and one doesn't negotiate with a murderer. Two, the Olso accord [mutual recognition of Israel and the PLO, 1993] is the greatest evil that has ever fallen upon Israel, and everything should be done to destroy it." Its objective was directed, by means of a vast operation of increasing intensity, toward progressively isolating the Palestinian president just as much domestically as diplomatically.
The operation developed without snags. Thus, for example, the use of F-16 fighter planes to bomb buildings in the center of Palestinian cities "has become routine." Finally, with the last attack, "last Wednesday [12 December], Hamas brought him down. From now on, Arafat is isolated, cut off from his headquarrters in Ramallah. Incapable of having his men intervene, he can no longer move around, he's really starting to be out of the game."
'THE IDEA OF CANTONIZATION'
According to Yediot Aharonot's sources, the Defense Minister, Benyamin Ben Eliezer (Labor Party), stated weeks ago during a meeting of his high command that Arafat "had finished his historical role," and he asked his colleagues to "undertake independent discussions with other forces" than those of the Palestinian chief. The Dagan plan foresees that, once the Intifada is put down, Israel "will negotiate separately with Palestinian forces that are dominant in each territory-Palestinian forces responsible for security, intelligence, and even for the Tanzim (Fatah)." The plan thus closely resembles the idea of "cantonization" of Palestinian territories, put forth by a number of ministers. Until now, the [Yediot Aharonot] author's sources admit, "attempts" to make contact with "other forces" than those faithful to Arafat "have come up with nothing."
"Now that he's got his prey, Sharon won't let it escape easily," as has happened before, writes the author, who in no way criticizes the [Israeli] head of government but nevertheless concludes that Israel has little time left to get rid of Arafat for good. "Many accidents could happen" to block the success of this plan. So, "Arafat might again get himself out of the trap. Many times in the past Israel has tried, without success, to change regimes in neighboring Arab countries."
Translation from the French. Copyright © Le Monde 2002. Reprinted for fair use only
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