March 28, 2002
The Israeli government did not ask much of Yasser Arafat, the Chairman of the
Palestinian Authority. All he had to do was announce a ceasefire in his own
voice and language on Palestinian radio and television.
If he would do that, the Israelis would permit him to travel to Beirut for
the Arab League summit, at which the centrepiece of debate is a Saudi plan for
peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Conditions for his return – that no
acts of terrorism occur during his two-day absence – were more significant.
Still, why should either stipulation have given Mr. Arafat pause? He has
repeatedly declared himself desirous of an end to his 18-month terrorist war. Is
it so much of a hardship for him to not murder Jewish civilians for 48 hours?
Apparently, it is.
Mr. Arafat remains at his home in Ramallah today not because of Israeli
intransigence or a failure of American statecraft – the two most popular
explanations. Rather, he is there because he wants to continue killing people.
He also judges that Ramallah is the place where he can receive the most
positive publicity. By staying home, he will look the victim – “humiliated” in the
Palestinian lexicon, endlessly parotted by the left-wing press.
No doubt the preconditions placed on Mr. Arafat’s departure by Ariel Sharon,
the Israeli Prime Minister, will be cited as the impetus behind Wednesday’s
barbaric bombing of a Passover Seder, which killed 15 in the Northern Israeli
town of Netanya.
(An alternative explanation is that the bomber had been reading the
official Saudi press, which recently informed readers that Jews prepare such
festive meals with the blood of Islamic babies.)
Mr. Arafat’s decision to stay put was made easier by the disintegration of the
Arab summit before it even began. No more than half of the league’s 22
member states have sent their heads of state. Nominally pro-Western leaders
such as President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan have
declined to attend, and sent lower-level delegations in their stead.
And the Saudi peace plan is an obvious dead end anyway. We
discovered yesterday that the proposal would allow the return of millions of
Palestinian refugees and their descendants to Israel’s core pre-1967 land mass –
the de facto destruction of the Jewish state from within.
Meanwhile, the summit has witnessed the usual poisonous Arab
bickering. The Lebanese hosts pulled the plug on Mr. Arafat’s televised speech
to the conference almost immediately after it had begun, causing the Palestinian
delegation to storm out, the United Arab Emirates to downgrade the diplomatic
status of its troupe and the Saudis to demand an apology.
But should anybody really care whether Mr. Arafat attends or not – or whether
Arab leaders give their cynical imprimaturs to peace with a nation they all truly
wish was annihilated?
Mr. Arafat has failed to abide by every agreement he has been a party to
since 1993. Every time Israel has conceded land and control to him in return for
the promise of peace (rather than actual peace), Arafat has found a way to
escalate the violence in order to elicit further concessions – and every time, the
Arab world stood and cheered as “martyrs” blew up innocent civilians. This
grim pattern played out after Oslo in 1993, at Hebron in 1995 and at Camp
David in 2000. Now, Mr. Arafat is hitting rewind and play once again.
Why wouldn’t he? So long as the West fails to see there is no peace so long as
Chairman Arafat leads the Palestinians, he will continue to use murder and
terror in an attempt to extract what he wants.