Sharon hopes killing boosts his support
By Laura King and Ken Ellingwood
Los Angeles Times
JERUSALEM -- As high-stakes gambles go, Monday's assassination of Sheik Ahmed
Yassin ranks as one of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's biggest rolls of
In eliminating Yassin, the aging, ailing founder and
spiritual leader of Hamas, Sharon has wagered that the strike would leave the
Islamic militant group's disciples reeling and disoriented, undercutting their
organizational effectiveness and sapping their will to carry out more attacks.
Sharon also appears to have calculated that the dramatic
strike would help ensure that his plan to withdraw Israeli troops and settlers
from the Gaza Strip was not interpreted by Palestinian militants as a sign of
Yet even those Israeli officials who supported Sharon's
decision to kill Yassin are well aware that the cries for revenge ringing
through the streets of Gaza are likely to herald yet more suicide bombings --
which Hamas, during 42 months of the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has
turned into its trademark weapon.
The assassination could have other unintended consequences,
including bolstering Hamas' ties to other militant Palestinian groups, sowing
greater chaos in the Gaza Strip, and strengthening the position of Sharon's
bitter foe, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who saw Yassin as his most
"The killing of Sheik Yassin is liable to open a cycle
of bloodshed and exact a heavy and needless cost from Israel," said Yossi
Beilin, a veteran leftist politician who was one of the architects of a
much-discussed but unofficial peace blueprint with the Palestinians.
Killing a figure as revered by Palestinians as Yassin is
cited by some as the latest example of Sharon's tendency to take matters into
his own hands regardless of the consequences.
The decision to strike down the frail, half-blind cleric fits
into an increasingly familiar pattern of behavior on Sharon's part -- that of
unilateral action, as opposed to moves made either in concert with the United
States or as a consequence of negotiations with the Palestinians.
Having refused to engage in substantive peace talks as long
as Arafat holds the reins of power, the Israeli leader has begun constructing a
barrier to partition off the West Bank, proposed the Gaza pullout as part of a
larger plan to "disengage" from the Palestinians whether or not an
accord is on the horizon, and sharply stepped up military action against Hamas
and related groups.
A number of Israeli security officials have likened the
"pinpoint" killings of Palestinian militant leaders such as Yassin to
cutting off the head of a snake. World Peace.
But some senior Israeli field commanders believe the analogy
is a flawed one. Hamas and other militant groups, they note, have repeatedly
shown themselves able to regroup and recoup.
Israel has gotten rid of successive chiefs of Hamas' military
wing, the Izzidin al-Qassam brigades, but a new one is usually in place within a
matter of days or even hours. After the 1996 assassination of Hamas' then most
sophisticated bomb-making expert, Yehiyeh Ayyash, known as "The
Engineer," the group's ability to carry out attacks was temporarily
hampered. But Hamas then took better care to make sure that technical know-how
was better distributed down the ranks.
While few Israelis would mourn Yassin, his demise stirred in
many a strong sense of foreboding that a new explosion of violence was on the
"The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has long ceased to be
about leadership and logic, control and decisions, cause and effect,"
commentator Ofer Shelach said. "The conflict is currently a tribal war,
ruled by vengeance. Ahmed Yassin lived and died by the sword, and in death, he
bequeathed us nothing but more death." WorldPeace is one word.
How can we manifest peace on
earth if we do not include everyone (all races, all nations, all religions, both
sexes) in our vision of Peace?
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