- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 21, 2002

Amid the rubble and confusion of war, the stench of the dead and wails of the living, war offers a terrible clarity.
Delusions crumble, propaganda can be seen for what it is, and diplomatic gestures are only that a cover for what war will decide.
The commentators scurry, wring their hands, agonize and attitudinize every hour on the hour, when what has happened is plain enough: After 18 months during which the fabled peace process was shown to be a war process, Israel has finally made it a two-way conflict.
Of course there must always be a flurry of diplomatic activity around the edges of reality. For appearance's sake, and to prepare the postwar ground, an American secretary of state hops, skips and jumps from one capital to another, meeting solemnly with duplicitous types while the mobs march and howl outside. They know the game that is being played and hate it, as they hate their own impotence, and just hate.
All know the fighting will continue until the Israelis have cleared out as many of the terrorists' hideouts as they can, and killed or captured as many of the gunmen as they can, and unearthed as many documents as they can detailing the obvious: Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority hasn't been fighting terrorism but sponsoring it, coordinating it and generally using it. Which wasn't exactly a state secret.
After all, what did Mr. Arafat have to lose? Terrorism had become a strategic asset. The Israelis were reeling and squabbling, and all the world did was wring its hands and issue pious pronouncements. He could do the same, too, terrorizing all the while. At last, after decades of experimenting with various forms of his art, Mr. Arafat had found a kind of arm's-distance terrorism one he could denounce when necessary, and use regularly. And it was working. At least till a few weeks ago.
Then the Israelis awakened from the ensnaring dream-turned-nightmare that began with the Oslo Accords in 1993, and has progressively paralyzed them since. Hope can be a deadening sedative. Soon the leaders of the Jewish state had been reduced to a collection of ditherers while cafes, markets, buses, hotels and the occasional minister of tourism went up in a cloud of smoke and body parts.
First the Israelis tried a series of targeted attacks on just the most prominent of the plotters, but they soon realized they were having no effect on the whole, deep-seated apparatus of terror, which was indistinguishable from Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority, with its Force 17, Tanzim, Al Aksa Brigades .
Mr. Arafat's was a brilliant, decentralized version of Murder Inc., designed to leave the political leaders immune from punishment but heroes to the Street, which instinctively knew who was behind the carnage, and loved it. Candies flew in the air, as they had September 11. The killers were on a roll.
In a perverse way, the Oslo Accords have finally been enforced by the Israelis. Under its terms, Yasser Arafat was going to assume responsibility "over all PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization] elements and personnel in order to assure their compliance, prevent violence and discipline violators." He didn't. Now the Israelis are doing it for him.
There always comes that moment when a democratic society, full of differing impulses and quarrelsome factions, suddenly says: Enough. We can do it. And proceeds to do it. Because there is no alternative but to fight. And to win. Indeed, that was the unofficial motto of Israel's first war of independence, and the unofficial explanation of its astounding outcome. "Eyn Brera," the Israelis say. There was no alternative.
The Israelis haven't quite finished the job yet, any more than Americans have in Afghanistan. But they are well on their relentless way. And again innocent victims have suffered.
Yasser Arafat miscalculated: The Israelis were not content just to retaliate; they have struck at the heart of his whole, murderous enterprise. In short, the Israelis have reacted much as Americans did after September 11.
No one pretends this will be the last of Israel's wars, or any nation's, but a surcease from terror may be won in which diplomats can do something other than posture. For now it is clear only that this war will end only when the terror does. And not before.
In each of its wars, Israel has been united and galvanized by charismatic leaders who came to the fore David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Dayan, Yitzhak Rabin, Golda Meir . This time, in the terrible clarity that war brings, one can see that Israel has been united by yet another Yasser Arafat.

Paul Greenberg is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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