Over the Easter weekend, world leaders and the United Nations condemned Israel's seizure of Ramallah and rose to the defense of Yasser Arafat's life, but who other than Israel is left to defend the lives of Israeli citizens? Those who once again have found a way to "blame Israel first" miss the significance of a massacre that came during Passover, in the midst of a meeting of the Arab League on the verge of announcing Arab states' willingness to give full diplomatic recognition to Israel and while a concerted American effort was under way to bring about a cease-fire. These ghastly killings constituted a declaration of perpetual war on Israel and notice to the entire Arab world that its peace efforts were unwelcome.
Immediately after the Passover Massacre, a Hamas spokesman said, "The Palestinian people do not want to see (American Gen. Anthony) Zinni succeed in his (cease-fire) assignment. We want to remind the Arabs and the Muslims what resisting the occupation means. This operation comes as a message to the summit convening in Lebanon that our Palestinian people's option is resistance and resistance only."
The Hamas message to the rest of the Arab world is that if they recognize or negotiate with Israel, they, too, will become a target of terrorism. This is why the Matza restaurant in Haifa -- one place Arabs and Israelis felt comfortable together -- was chosen as the site of a suicide bombing. Their message to Arafat is that if he takes any steps toward peace with Israel, he will be the next Anwar Sadat.
Militant Palestinian groups are out of control, and it is just a matter of time before their fury is turned on Arab states, especially Jordan, which is more than two-thirds Palestinian. Having taken a positive initiative for peace at the Arab League summit in Beirut, Arab nations now cannot afford to let Palestinian militants cower them into inaction. It clearly now is in the self-interest of the rest of the Arab and Muslim world -- including Palestinians -- to stand up to the Palestinian militants and insist that they stop the violence and negotiate in good faith to make peace with Israel within secure borders for both peoples.
It is wrong for world leaders to ask Israel to absorb more terrorism in the hope that Arafat will do what he has never done before and is probably now incapable of doing. It was also a serious mistake for the United States to vote in favor of a U.N. resolution calling for Israel to unilaterally withdraw from Ramallah and other Palestinian towns. President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell are right to reject any moral equivalence between Palestinian murder and Israeli self-defense. There is no realistic hope for peace unless America pledges its full diplomatic efforts and the Arab world gets fully engaged in stopping the violence and terror. I agree with Sen. Joseph Lieberman that it is time for the president to send Powell to get both sides talking again. While the United States has pressured Israel to negotiate and make concessions during the past decade, there has been no commensurate pressure on the Palestinians from the rest of the Arab world. It's time there was.
We have heard since Sept. 11 that Islam means "peace" and the Koran rejects violence against innocents. Therefore, leaders of the Arab nations must denounce and censure the Passover Massacre and similar attacks against innocents. Arab leaders must not justify the murder of innocent people as "resistance." Terrorism is an illegitimate form of resistance, and the Arab world must say so.
I agree with Zalman Shoval, former Israeli ambassador to the United States, that the Arab League "peace initiative" is a "non-starter" as proposed because it would be a "death sentence" to the state of Israel. The Arab League's expressed willingness to give Israel full diplomatic recognition is a positive basis for negotiation. The League should now call on the Palestinians to demonstrate their commitment to recognize Israel by altering the Arab and Palestinian Authority maps that depict the entire state of Israel as "Occupied Palestine."
Additionally, the Arab states must cut off the financial lifeblood of the terrorists in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, and they must root them out, making it clear to Iran and other provocateurs that their interference and succor for terrorists in Arab countries will not be tolerated. Refusing to fight other Muslims is not an excuse for the Arab world to sit on its hands while the killing of innocents continues. The Koran teaches that suicidal zealots who kill innocents in the name of Allah are neither holy nor martyrs. They are by the Koran's own description, "evildoers." Now is the time for the Arab world to take the risk for peace and for the Palestinians and Israel to come to a negotiated compromise. Otherwise, the entire region will suffer the consequences of full-blown war.