Confronting terror wherever it occurs

Posted: Jan 16, 2002 12:00 AM
The Palestinian Authority's attempt to smuggle 50 tons of heavy assault weapons into Gaza sends a clear and deeply disturbing message: Yasser Arafat remains addicted to violence and terrorism in order to destroy Israel's democracy. By attempting to smuggle in hundreds of millions of dollars of weapons and explosives, the Palestinians flagrantly violated the 1993 Oslo Accords, in which Arafat agreed to give up terrorism once and for all. In exchange for promising peace, he received land (much of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip), authority over that land and money. Eager for peace, the Israelis even armed his so-called "police force." It is not clear whether the Palestinian Authority's flagrant violation of the Oslo Accords was under Arafat's personal direction or conducted openly by his subordinates under his intentionally averted eyes -- willful ignorance has always been a patented Arafat cover technique. But either way, the world is left with no alternative to concluding that the Palestinian Authority seeks not to live in peace with Israel on its share of the land between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River but rather seeks dominion over all of that land for a radical Islamic Palestine. Arafat betrayed not only the Israelis but also his own Palestinian people, most of whom long for peace, stability and a better life, and support a sincere peace process with Israel. Arafat's treachery is also a slap in the face to Secretary of State Colin Powell and a direct challenge to President George W. Bush, who went on record after Sept. 11 saying that world leaders must choose one side or the other in the war against terrorism. Arafat said he would stand with America, with all civilized people who want an end to the deliberate slaughter of innocent civilians for political purposes. Yet his actions reveal that he prefers the role of warrior to that of statesman. The Palestinian Authority's attempt to escalate the violence by smuggling arms must carry consequences. At a minimum, all U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority should cease immediately, and those European nations that say they are interested in fighting terrorism also should cut off the flow of funds. Money is fungible, and it is unacceptable that our tax dollars are being diverted to kill innocent men, women and children. We should also recall our envoy, Anthony Zinni, as a clear signal that the United States no longer will attempt to broker a peace as long as one party refuses to abandon violence for the negotiating table. It has been said that Arafat never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity. A little over a year ago, he turned down then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's offer of an independent Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem -- the offer Arafat had said he was waiting for. Instead of accepting the offer, or at least tabling a counteroffer, Arafat unleashed a wave of terror, his own version of 9-11, which coincidentally occurred a year earlier in September 2000. His forces and those of his allies have killed Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs, Christian and Muslim alike, including Americans. Just last week, while I was in Israel on a fact-finding mission in my capacity as chairman of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, another terrorist attack killed four Arab Israeli soldiers. While in Israel, I met with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and he said, "We are ready to make painful compromises for a durable peace -- for a true peace -- but we cannot compromise our existence." As I told the press in Jerusalem afterward, Arafat has run out of second chances. Arafat is not the only one whose actions send a message the United States would be foolish to ignore. This arms-smuggling scheme, with the weapons and explosives supplied by Iran, is a classic instance of state-supported terrorism. It also compels the world to recognize the incontrovertible fact that Iran and Syria, which pose as allies in the coalition against terrorism, are the host countries to Hezbollah, the epicenter of world terrorism. Iran and Syria support Hezbollah with money and arms. Hezbollah operates freely out of the Bekaa valley in Lebanon -- territory occupied and controlled by Syria -- which contains some of the most sophisticated terrorist training camps in the world, where terrorists are taught how to conduct suicide bombings and assassinations, produce false identity papers and infiltrate borders. Sept. 11 lifted the veil off many faces of evil. This latest arms-smuggling incident should cause the scales to fall from our eyes that have in the past blurred our clarity of vision where Arafat and his supporters in Iran and Syria are concerned. As we contemplate our next step in the war on terrorism after Afghanistan, we should focus on what to do about Hezbollah and its host-sponsors, Iran and Syria.