Sharons Chief of the Army

TEL AVIV – Who is the Chief of General Staff, the chief commander of the Israeli army? His name is Moshe Ya’alon, a professional soldier with the rank of a Lieutenant-General.

Ya’alon has held the position of the army’s commander-in-chief for two months, but already he has broken some records in what Israeli peace forces define as war crimes. In his first extensive interview published in the Aug. 30 magazine of the Israeli daily, Ha’aretz, he stressed that the dropping of a one-ton blockbuster bomb on a four-story apartment building in densely populated Gaza City was fully justified. It did not disturb him that this huge bomb killed not only the Hamas officer Salah Shehadeh, but also 11 civilians, among them seven children, and wounded 80. Although he expressed some regret that there had been victims from among the unarmed civilian population, he added, “that’s the way of war.” He stressed too, that any step taken by him and his general staff had been sanctioned by Prime Minister Sharon. Moreover, according to the press, Ya’aron’s record in his first month in office shows that from among the 49 Palestinians killed by the army, 30, had been unarmed civilians, among them seven children.

On Aug. 31, two Apache helicopter gun-ships fired missiles upon a private car driving through a densely traffic-loaded street in Tubas near the West Bank city of Nablus. The intention was another extra-juridical execution (the 87th in two years) of a local leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade. One missile hit the car, killing two of its passengers, while the intended victim was not in the car. Three other civilians were killed instantly too, among them two small kids who played in the street.

On Sept.1, four unarmed Palestinian workers were killed in the early morning hours on their way to work on the outskirts of the West Bank town of Hebron. Ya’alon called this “the beginning of our victory over terror.”

He also said that he sees the Palestinians, in the occupied territories as well as most of the Arab citizens of Israel, as “a cancerous growth in the body of the Jewish State of Israel which should be extricated before it would exterminate us and our national existence.”

It does not bother his superior, Prime Minister Sharon, that these atrocities had been perpetrated by the Israeli army precisely during the weeks in which some hesitated steps were taken to defuse the tensions. During August, no suicide attacks had taken place in Israel, while talks were also going on between the various groups of the Palestinian resistance movement. It is no wonder that many political observers in Israel are remarking that it may well be that the PM and Chief of General Staff, cheered by the radical right-wing and settlers, are out to sabotage any possibility of a diplomatic, peaceful end to the bloody conflict with the Palestinian neighbors.

Without doubt, Ya’alon’s theory about the “Palestinian cancer growth” fits very well into Sharon’s traditional strategic goal to conquer the whole of “Eretz-Israel” from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean coast and settle it with Jews, to finish the 1948/49 task of getting rid of the “foreigners,” the indigenous Palestinians, if not by other means, by mass panic creating massacres, and let them set up their state in the Trans-Jordanian desert.

In fact, Sharon’s designs, which follow the traditional land- conquering designs of the most radical Zionist leaders, faithfully seconded by his new commander-in-chief of the army, is not directed against the Palestinians alone, but, in fact, also against the very interests of Israel and its people, its Jewish as well as Arab citizens, of Israel’s future in peace and good-neighborly relationship with the surrounding Arab world.

Lebrecht can be reached at pww@pww.org