October 1 2001
Here we go again. By the time the security cabinet met Saturday night to
assess the latest cease-fire, the Palestinians had racked up 50 acts of violence –
including the mortar attack on Tekoa – since the Peres-Arafat meeting on
It was decided to give Yasser Arafat another 48 hours to do what he had
pledged to do “immediately”: issue clear instructions to prevent terror, arrest
terrorists, end violent activities and attacks, and end incitement to violence and
Security officials reportedly noticed that the relative calm that preceded the
Shimon Peres-Yasser Arafat meeting quickly deteriorated after the meeting took
place, indicating that once Arafat had what he needed, he loosened the reins on
violence and terrorism a few notches.
Arafat’s Gaza security chief, Muhammad Dahlan, has already stated that
no Palestinian on the list of 108 terrorist suspects handed over to the
Palestinian Authority will be arrested, despite Arafat’s agreement to do just
A pattern, to put it mildly, seems to be emerging here. Whenever Arafat is
under pressure, such as following the particularly horrific suicide bombings at
the Dolphinarium and Sbarro and now post-September 11, he has agreed to
“cease-fires” and urged his Hamas and Islamic Jihad allies to temporarily hold
back. Whenever the pressure eases, the “cease-fire” melts away, until the next
time Arafat fears international wrath and isolation.
The conclusion should be that what determines Arafat’s behavior is not whom
he meets with and what he agrees to but his perception of what he can get
Arafat’s clear objective, if he can get away with it, is to get Israel to
accept a “low level” of attacks, which will continue as Israel offers him further
Just as Arafat is attempting to get Israel used to the idea of negotiations and
funerals at the same time, he is exploring how much he can attack Israel and
still remain off America’s post-September 11 “bad guys” list.
We can assume that Arafat is offering America intelligence goodies that
may or may not be useful in fighting Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network in
tacit exchange for not pressing him to the wall.
Some might be offended by the thought that America would even consider a
Faustian bargain with Arafat along these lines: You let me kill just a “few”
Israelis and I’ll help you get bin Laden.
Yet the alternative explanation for the seeming American eagerness to
see Israel negotiate with Arafat even if there is no real cease-fire is even worse:
that the US wants to define violence and terrorism against Israel as quiet, even
if it is not getting any direct benefit from Arafat.
We would sincerely like to believe that neither the Faustian bargain nor the
Faustian giveaway is the case. We want to assume that Secretary of State
Colin Powell meant it when he said that the US would “go after terrorism
wherever we find it in the world” and that America would not limit its war
against terrorism to bin Laden, but would fight groups “that have conducted
attacks previously against US personnel, US interests, and our allies.”
But barring evidence to the contrary, it is hard to believe that the US has
decided to hold Arafat to the standard of “zero tolerance” of terrorism, as if his
terrorism were not against Israel, but the United States.
The US should say to Arafat in no uncertain terms: zero terrorism, or you go on
our terrorism list. If the US holds him to such a standard, Arafat will explain to
his people and allies, as he has in the past, that the “supreme Palestinian
interest” is to return to the negotiating table.
If, on the other hand, the US lets Arafat be the exception to the war on
terrorism, that war will be lost from the beginning.
To concede the acceptability of terror anywhere is to concede it everywhere.