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COLUMN

Out With Arafat

Dan Tortorice

I used to believe Yasser Arafat was committed to peace. I used to believe that he wanted a just resolution to the Israel/Palestine conflict. I used to believe the terrorist acts committed against Israel were done without his knowledge and against his will. I believed if he could have stopped them he would have. But recent events have proved this position untenable. In fact it has become obvious that Arafat supports terrorism as a means to achieve his political ends.

No conscionable individual could defend the terrorist acts committed against Israel and the Israeli people. To set a bomb off in a crowded cafÉ, restaurant or supermarket, to actively take the life of innocent civilians is simply immoral. No end can justify such means. And to do so, in Israel, on Passover to kill Jews gathered for the Seder is an unspeakable evil.

Yet Yasser Arafat did not speak out against these acts. Instead he chose to legitimatize them. When, describing his own precarious situation surrounded by Israeli tanks and troops, he said, “They either want to kill me, or capture me, or expel me. I hope I will be a martyr.” What he did not say, he had no need to. For the rest of the world finished it for him. The message he sent to all would be terrorists was that he hoped to be a martyr like the suicide bombers who attacked Israel.

If this were Arafat’s only endorsement of terrorism, perhaps Israel could still hope to negotiate peace with him. However, it has become increasingly clear that the organizations which have carried out these bombings have ties to Arafat. In the past, when Hamas or Islamic Jihad -- militant splinter groups that split with Arafat because of his concessions in the Oslo Accords -- carried out the bombings, one could argue that Arafat could not control these organizations so his speaking out against the bombing would have little tangible benefit. But at least three of the most recent bombings were carried out by Al Aqsa, the military arm of Arafat’s own Fatah movement. By speaking out in opposition to these horrors committed by his own people Arafat could stop them, yet he is silent. One should ask why. And one should answer: because he supports these terrorist acts.

The final nail in Arafat’s coffin was hammered in on Tuesday. It was well known that Al Aqsa received funding from Arafat’s Palestinian Authority but the direct link had yet to be established. Then, on Tuesday, the Israel Defense Force recovered documents indicating that Al Asqa had asked Arafat for $100,000 to set up a weaponry factory and $15,000 per month to fund their operations. They indicated that Fouad al-Shoubaki, the former chief of procurement and finance for Arafat, had distributed funds to the organization. Tangible evidence that Arafat’s Palestinian Authority is funding terrorism.

The discovery was notable for another reason. Fouad al-Shoubaki was the former finance chief because he was supposedly fired by Arafat after he attempted to smuggle arms into Israel from Iran. But these documents indicated that he continued to work in his old capacity even after he was “fired.” The scenario seems typical of Arafat. He says one thing and does another. He says he’s committed to peace, but is in reality funding terrorism.

The implication of this disclosure is clear. Israel must never negotiate with Arafat. To do so would be to legitimize terrorism as a means to achieving political objectives.

Make no mistake, the ghosts of those murdered by Arafat’s Al Aqsa brigade haunt any future negotiations. Terrorism inspires fear. And any future Israel/Arafat negotiations will be tainted by the thought that if they fail, Arafat will be willing to use terror to achieve his ends. This is not to say Israel should not negotiate for peace, but that they must do so with someone other than Arafat. Unfortunately a leader of the Palestinian people who rejects terrorism does not now exist. Israel must wait until one does to negotiate for peace.

Regrettably, the U.S. government still wishes Arafat to be part of the peace process. I wonder how much longer we can dance this dance until our hypocrisy is exposed. We destroyed the Taliban for being a government that supported terrorism, yet we ask Israel to negotiate with Arafat whose government funds terrorism. Like it or not, our war on terrorism gives Israel a license to declare war on Arafat. And I hope they do, for the removal of Arafat is the first step towards peace.