Oct. 10; Arafat has chance to prove he prefers peace to terrorism

Posted: Thursday, October 11, 2001

With Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon now saying his country will take a ''low-profile'' approach toward the United States-led fight against terrorism, attention shifts to Yasser Arafat. Events Monday showed dramatically that of all the worldwide leaders with a decision to make, he has the most important choice.

Since he signed the Oslo Accords eight years ago, Mr. Arafat has frustrated Israeli and American politicians and negotiators with his inconsistent attitude toward terrorism. ...

While some Islamic countries criticized the attacks on Afghanistan, a top Palestinian official did not. Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Nabil Shaath said, ''We do not need anyone using Palestine as a pretext for their own purposes.'' ...

Predictably, terrorist groups Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad criticized the campaign against the Taliban and called for retaliation against the United States and Israel. For Mr. Arafat, the alternatives are clear. He can give in to those organizations for whom violence is the only answer, or he finally can act like the statesman he has claimed he wants to be. Recent history offers two reminders -- Anwar Sadat and Yitzhak Rabin -- that the right choice carries personal risk. But Mr. Arafat has insisted it is the option he prefers, and this is the chance to prove it.

-- The Palm Beach Post, West Palm Beach, Fla.

Oct. 9

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