For Arafat the game is over, the jig is up

Posted: Dec 06, 2001 12:00 AM
According to the Bush formulation, Yasser Arafat is a terrorist. The United States, Israel, and the world's remaining forces of right reason should soon introduce him to the terrorist's fate. Over the weekend, Palestinian suicide bombers killed 26 Israeli innocents and wounded 200. They did it while Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was in the United States for talks with President Bush. The killings were but the latest enormities in the war of unremitting terror Arabs and Islamists have waged against Israel since its creation in 1948. Until 1993, the State Department officially listed Arafat as a terrorist. But, along the way, he won the Nobel Peace Prize essentially for conning naifs into believing him a peacemaker. He became the most frequent foreign visitor to the don't-worry-be-happy Clinton White House. The Bush White House has yet to receive him - perhaps tacit recognition that Arafat meets Bush's September formulation, "If you harbor terrorists, you are a terrorist" and its first corollary "You are either with us or you are with the terrorists." Israel long has been a principal front in the terror war. Arabs and Islamists - even the so-called moderates among them, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia - generally detest the place and want it rubbed off the map. Arafat, posing as a moderate struggling against Palestinian extremists, has pledged repeatedly to throttle overt terror groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which reject any negotiated peace with Israel. Eighteen months ago Israel's Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians 90 percent of the Israeli land they demanded - an offer Arafat rejected. He went home to launch against Israel an intifada (war) that now has claimed nearly 1,000 lives, two-thirds of them Palestinian. The in-your-face weekend attacks prompted from Sharon these remarks: "A war has been forced upon us - a war of terror, a war that claims innocent victims every day, a war of terror being conducted systematically in an organized fashion and with methodical direction.... "The aim of this war of terror, the aim of the terrorists, ... is to expel us from here. Their aim is to bring us to total despair, a loss of hope, and the loss of the national vision which leads us: "A free people in our land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem." "...Arafat is guilty of everything that is happening here. Arafat has made his strategic choices: a strategy of terrorism. In choosing to try and win political accomplishments through murder and in choosing to allow the ruthless killing of innocent civilians, Arafat has chosen the path of terrorism. ... Arafat is the greatest obstacle to peace and stability in the Middle East." Few are the distinctions between those words of Sharon and Bush's words post-9/11. Both men rhetorically framed the case for responding to the war waged against their countries - indeed, for their countries' very survival. Both are fighting the same war, albeit on different fronts. Bush's first target is Osama bin Laden; Sharon's target of the moment is Palestinian terrorists, with Arafat at the top of the list. Even the indulgent New York Times is growing weary of Arafat. On Tuesday it said editorially: "Time is rapidly running out on Arafat. He must decide now whether he is a leader who can and will complete the ambitious peace effort he began in 1993. If he cannot, it is hard to see how he has any meaningful role left to play." Even Bill Clinton's accommodating Mideast envoy, Dennis Ross, has had it up to his keister with Arafat - writing: "Arafat must act. For 15 months he has allowed his territory to be a haven for those who attack Israelis. They have been free to plan and organize, to build their bombs and recruit their bombers. Despite every commitment he has made to renounce violence and terror, he has shown a complete tolerance for both, releasing suicide bombers from jail and lying about it. "...Half-measures, Arafat's stock in trade, will no longer work. ... Now, at last, he must decide that the Palestinian Authority will not be a safe haven for terrorists. He must stop glorifying suicide bombers by calling them martyrs. He must demonstrate that nothing justifies terror." Arafat's Palestinian Authority, with its Fatah and Tanzim militia sustainers, abides terrorists among Palestinians, and so satisfies Bush's formulation. Arafat discredits the Palestinian cause and - implicitly or explicitly - wars against Israel (a close American friend and ally) and against Israelis' very right to dwell on this planet. He merits the fate President Bush has ordered for bin Laden. Western patience has run out, the game is over, the jig is up. Time for Arafat to shape up - or for the Israelis to bring him to his knees.