Negotiating With The Executioner

Commentary by Pete du Pont

Imagine if our close friends the British urged us to start negotiations with Osama Bin Laden. In exchange for Bin Laden condemning the terrorist activities of his own al Qaeda network, Bush would have to immediately remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan and begin efforts to pull all our forces from the Middle East.

Sound ridiculous? It should, but unfortunately it is exactly what the U.S. and the rest of the international community is asking of Israel. Ever since Israel's military incursion into the West Bank to root out those responsible for the recent spate of bombings and to possibly prevent future attacks, the international community has demanded that Israel withdraw its forces and renew peace negotiations with Yasser Arafat.

But one reason Israel has no peace is that Arafat is not interested in peace. The second is because Israel has never completely defeated any of its enemies. Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who spoke recently at the NCPA's Sumners Lecture Series, noted that in every instance, Israel has been forced to stop short of complete military success. The consequence has been that they have always left a wounded enemy in power, allowing him to heal and regroup to fight another day.

Today that wounded leader is Yasser Arafat, a man who has used violence and terrorism to cement his control over the Palestinians, and to attack Israel and his Arab neighbors. He was behind the 1972 killing of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. He pioneered airline hijackings in the 1970s and 80s. He was expelled by the Jordanians after he tried to overthrow King Hussein. He was expelled from Lebanon in 1982 after he used Palestinian refugee camps as bases for cross-border terrorist attacks against Israel.

And since gaining a foothold in the Palestinian territories the terrorism has remained constant, that is except for a three-year period when Netanyahu was Prime Minister. It all but stopped then only because Netanyahu made it perfectly clear to Arafat that if the attacks continued, he would be taken out.

And all along during his tenure of terror, the Israelis have tried to turn him into a partner for peace, but Arafat has consistently refused to be an honest broker. Instead, he has used the peace process for public relations and political cover. For example, in 1993's Oslo land-for-peace deal, Arafat agreed to halt all violence against Israel. Israel handed over the land, and within a few weeks Arafat had openly returned to endorsing terrorism, genocide, and the destruction of Israel. For this two-step, Arafat was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In 1996, following a terrorist attack that killed 61 Israelis, Arafat agreed to clamp down by arresting 1,500 militants, only to quietly release them all within months. This revolving door imprisonment policy served the dual purpose of pretending to be serious about peace and a responsible leader, while also protecting his soldiers from true punishment.

In 2000, in discussions at Camp David and beyond, Arafat rejected out of hand an offer for a Palestinian state that would have included 97 percent of the West Bank, all of Gaza, 3 percent of what is now Israel, and a land-and-bridge connection between the West Bank and Gaza. On top of that, the Palestinians would have gotten half of Jerusalem. Instead of even coming up with a counteroffer, Arafat responded with a new round of aggressions that has culminated in the recent homicide bombings in Israeli cafes and bus stops.

The point is that there is no chance for genuine peace as long as Arafat is in power, because he is not truly interested in Palestinian independence. He is not seeking a state next to Israel; he is seeking a state in place of Israel. One need to look no further than his official maps of the Middle East, which for years have shown a Palestine that encompasses the West Bank, Gaza and Israel.

The Israelis, who've been victimized by terrorism for decades, want peace so desperately that they've made concession after concession, handing over land but never getting peace in return. Each concession has been greeted with more violence. Arafat, who has been given innumerable last chances, has finally exhausted them all, and there will be no peace as long as he is in power.