The Ze’evy Assassination and Israeli Counter-Terrorist Operations
Background Briefing

October 25, 2001

The Assassination:

On 17 October 2001, Palestinian terrorists assassinated Israeli Tourism Minister Rechavam Ze’evy outside his hotel room in Jerusalem.

This outrage came following the implementation a few days before of a series of Israeli good-will measures toward the Palestinian population, including the lifting of travel restrictions and the pullback of forces. Regrettably, as has been in the past, these Israeli steps were answered with violence rather than reciprocated with calm.

The assassination was carried out by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine [PFLP]. This terrorist organization is a member faction of Yasser Arafat’s PLO and has been allowed by the Palestinian Authority [PA] to operation freely in the areas under PA responsibility. In accordance with the agreements signed with Israel, and in keeping with the recent Mitchell Committee recommendations, PA Chairman Arafat is required to take firm action against terrorist groups, to disarm them of their illegal weapons, and to arrest those involved in terrorist attacks. He must end the Palestinian violence, arrest the terrorists and cease the incitement. Arafat’s refusal to carry out these commitments has left Israel with no choice but to itself take the appropriate measures to protect its citizens from the ongoing Palestinian terrorist threat.

The Recent Counter-Terrorist Operation:

No country could remain silent in the face of unrestrained terrorism, including the assassination of a government minister. Any country would have been forced to take action, and Israel’s action came in the form of a limited anti-terrorist interdiction operation in those areas of the West Bank and Gaza in which the PA had failed to carry out its obligation to prevent terrorism.

Israel, like any other state, has a right to self-defense and a duty to protect its citizens. If Arafat had lived up to his agreements arresting terrorists, stopping incitement and preventing violence – Israel would have no need to enter areas under PA responsibility. However, Arafat has not only done nothing to prevent terrorism, he has actively encouraged it. Consequently, Israel was left with no alternative but to defend itself. Israel must "do the job" that Arafat was supposed to have done – a job that must be done in order to protect innocent lives.

Israel has absolutely no intention of remaining in Palestinian Authority areas. Israeli security forces entered these areas with the sole purpose of apprehending those terrorists which Arafat himself failed to arrest. The goal of this Israeli policy is to prevent these areas from becoming a safe haven for terrorists.

As part of the counter-terrorist operation, on 23 Oct, an Israeli force entered the village of Beit Rima in order to apprehend the PFLP terrorists who assassinated the Israel’s Minister of Tourism. The force had solid intelligence regarding the whereabouts of the assassins and indeed, 11 wanted terrorists were caught. Others terrorists were killed in gun-battles with Israeli troops. The force left Beit Rima as soon as its mission was completed.

It must be noted that Arafat was made aware of the fact that Beit Rima had become a safe haven for a large number of terrorists but had opted not to act against them.

The Toll of Violence and the Search for Peace

Israel does not bear responsibility for the tragic consequences of Palestinian terrorism. Israel has made known its willingness to make far-reaching compromises in the search for a negotiated peace. Yet, rather than returning to the negotiating table, Arafat has continued on the path of violence. He continues to manipulate the level of violence in accordance with his political agenda. Tragically, by choosing violence, Arafat has brought nothing but suffering upon his people, causing them untold pain and economic hardship.

The Palestinian leadership has opted for violence and terrorism, and is using them as a political tool. Israel deeply regrets this choice, and reiterates its position that negotiations and terrorism cannot co-exist.

For its part, Israel remains committed to peace and yearns for reconciliation. Israel continues to support a return to negotiations, in accordance with the Mitchell Committee recommendations and the Tenet document. Nevertheless, implementation will only be possible once the Palestinian Authority takes decisive action to eliminate terrorism, as clearly detailed in the agreed-upon Tenet timetable.

The Global Anti-Terrorist Coalition

Israel has made clear its long-standing support of the global struggle against terrorism, and shares the world-view and values of those nations leading this battle. Israel supports the United States in this morally justified struggle, and the friendship between these two nations remains strong and unwavering.

The Palestinian Authority’s ongoing tolerance for terrorism on the one hand, and Israel’s consistent and steadfast confrontation of terrorism on the other, clearly testify to the attitude of each towards the principles of the global struggle against terrorism. Just as there is no justification for terrorism, there can be no distinction between good’ terrorism and bad’ terrorism. Terrorism is terrorism. It is an abomination, and should be rejected and rooted-out by all peace-loving nations who respect human dignity and the rule of law.