With the second Intifada and rise to power of Ariel Sharon, Israel abandoned Oslo and land-for-peace. We will never again negotiate with Arafat, said Sharon, because Israel does not negotiate with terrorists.
Two Israeli prime ministers, Rabin and Peres, had shared a Nobel Prize with Arafat. A third, "Bibi" Netanyahu, had handed over Hebron to Arafat. A fourth, Ehud Barak, had offered Arafat 95 percent of the West Bank and a capital in Jerusalem. Yet, Sharon not only made his policy stick, he got George W. Bush to sign on to it.
Where Arafat had been to the Clinton White House more times than Bob Dole, he was blackballed by the Bush White House.
Sharon's distaste of Arafat was visceral and real. He would not shake hands with him. But it was also politically astute. As security analyst Michael Vlahos has written, nations often declare adversaries "terrorists" to delegitimize them and absolve themselves of any obligation to talk peace with them. They fall back on the time-tested formula: "We do not negotiate with terrorists!"
And it is surely true that Arafat's Fatah, as well as his PLO, had committed acts of terror: the killing of the innocent for political ends, not only Israelis but U.S. diplomats. Yet, Sharon, in 1953, led a force called Unit 101 into the West Bank village of Kibya to avenge the Arab slaying of an Israeli woman and her children. Sixty-nine Palestinians were massacred, mostly women and children, as their homes were dynamited. Sharon was also the army commander when the IDF let the Phalangists into Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps, and fired flares to light the night so the killers could get on with their work.
What of us Americans? Do we negotiate with terrorists?
At Tehran and Yalta, FDR ceded Eastern Europe to the Great Terrorist he called "Uncle Joe." Truman at Potsdam affirmed the grant to Stalin. Three years after Soviet tanks crushed the Hungarian Revolution, Eisenhower invited the "Butcher of Budapest" to Camp David and had him escorted on a 10-day U.S. tour.
In the year the Viet Cong perpetrated the massacre at Hue, going door-to-door with lists and executing 3,000 South Vietnamese, U.S. Ambassador Averell Harriman sat down with the VC and North Vietnamese at Paris.
In 1972, Nixon went to Peking to shake hands with the greatest terrorist of the century, Mao Tse-tung, even as Mao's Gang of Four, including his wife, carried out the Chinese pogrom known as the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.
Donald Rumsfeld visited Saddam Hussein on behalf of Ronald Reagan, and we aided Saddam's Iraq in its war of aggression on Iran. Syrian leader Hafez al-Assad was said to be a state terrorist. Yet, in 1991, Bush I made him an ally in the Gulf War.