Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON -- Has no one learned anything?

     On Sept. 13, 1993, I was on the White House lawn watching the signing of the Oslo accords. I also watched the intellectual collapse of the entire Middle East intelligentsia -- journalists, politicians, ``experts'' -- as they swooned at the famous handshake between Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin and refused, that day and for years to come, to recognize what was obvious: that Arafat was embarking not on peace but on the next stage of his perpetual war against Israel, this one to be launched far more advantageously from a base of Palestinian territory that Israel had just suicidally granted him.

     Why was this so obvious? Because Arafat said so -- that very night (in an Arabic broadcast to his own people on Jordanian television) and many times afterward. The Middle East experts refused to believe it. They did not want to hear it. Then came the intifada. Thousands of dead later, they now believe it. The more honest ones among them even admit they were wrong.

     Now Arafat is dead, Mahmoud Abbas is poised to succeed him, and the world is swooning again. Abbas, we are told, is the great hope, the moderate, the opponent of violence, the man who has said the intifada was counterproductive.

     The peacemaker cometh. Once again, euphoria is in the air. Once again, no one wants to listen to what is being said.

     Elections for the new Palestinian leader are on Sunday. Conveniently, this being a Palestinian election, we already know the winner. How has President-to-be Abbas been campaigning?

     Dec. 30: Abbas, appearing in Jenin, is hoisted on the shoulders of Zakaria Zbeida, a notorious and wanted al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terrorist. Abbas declares that he will protect all terrorists from Israel.

     Dec. 31: Abbas reiterates his undying loyalty to Arafat's maximalist demands: complete Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines, Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, and -- the red-flag deal-breaker -- the ``right of return,'' which would send the millions of Palestinians abroad not to their own country of Palestine but to Israel in order to destroy it demographically.

     Jan. 1: Abbas declares that he will never crack down on Palestinian terrorism.

     Jan. 4: Abbas calls Israel ``the Zionist enemy.'' That phrase is so odious that only Hezbollah and Iran and others openly dedicated to the extermination of Israel use it.


Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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