Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat may be the world's biggest recipient of political welfare. He refuses to work toward peaceful relations with Israel. He honors none of his agreements. He continues to promote terror. And the world pays him anyway, at Israel's expense.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair is the latest to offer political payments to Arafat. During a meeting with Arafat in London, Blair called for the creation "of a viable Palestinian state as part of a negotiated and agreed settlement which guarantees peace and security for Israel," according to the New York Times.
Ah, but there's the rub, as Blair's fellow Englishman, William Shakespeare, said. Arafat and his many brothers -- from Osama bin Laden to Saddam Hussein (whom he praised during the Iraqi shelling of Israel in the Gulf War) -- don't want to guarantee Israel anything, except its extermination.
Apparently that isn't clear to Blair, who also said, "Islam as a religion prevents anyone, forbids anyone to harm any civilians, any innocent people around the world." He said this after shaking hands with Arafat, who is a Muslim, but is responsible for the deaths of many, many civilians, from schoolchildren to tourists. Arafat has praised as "martyrs" the suicide bombers whose targets are exclusively civilians.
If Blair and the Bush administration pressure Israel into making additional concessions to its sworn enemies, with no requirement that they live up to any of their previous promises, Arafat will again get the message that terrorism pays.
When President Bush said he favors a Palestinian state, with the usual caveat about a safe and secure Israel, the reaction was instructive.
The London Telegraph reported that thousands of marchers in the West Bank town of Ramallah emerged from Friday prayers Oct. 12 with cries of support for Osama bin Laden.
"Osama, hit more skyscrapers," they shouted.
Arafat knows he needs to give nothing, except violence, to get land. Why should he bargain when Israel is the only nation pressured to give and Arafat needs only to take?
No gesture, no turning over of land to Arafat by Israel, has diminished Palestinian violence. According to an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson, there have been hundreds of attacks on Israel and its civilians since Arafat's claimed cease-fire June 1. When Israel and the Palestinians "accepted" the cease-fire plan negotiated by CIA director George Tenent on June 15, violence continued unabated. On June 26, when President Bush said there had been "much progress" in ending the violence, it continued.
When Arafat declared seven "quiet days" on July 2, there were 27 violent incidents that day and 110 for the remainder of the seven-day period. On July 9, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said that Arafat told him he was serious about stopping the violence. It continued. On July 26, when the State Department said there had been a decline in violent incidents, those incidents persisted at the same or at greater levels than before the announcement.
Last week, Israeli forces shot and killed a man believed responsible for the death of 22 Israelis, mostly teen-age girls, at a Tel Aviv disco on June 2. Asked about it, a U.S. State Department spokesman said, "We are against targeted killings."
But isn't the U.S. targeting Osama bin Laden, whom the president says he wants "dead or alive"?
And what about the targeted assassination of Israel's minister of tourism last week? Why do Arafat and his cronies and the United States get to target people for death, but not Israel, whose territory and population are smaller than that of the Arab world and the United States?
Nothing that Israel or the United States does will deter Arafat and his friends from their objectives. They're after Israel first and then they're coming after us. Sept. 11 was just the beginning.
When Tony Blair claims that Islam forbids the harming of any civilians, he must be into severe denial. Either these terrorists and others who hate America, Israel and all things Western are not Muslims, or they are conducting a major disinformation campaign that would be the envy of Joseph Goebbels and Tokyo Rose.
Meanwhile, Yasser Arafat plays the role of welfare queen, taking all he can get and giving nothing in return. What's worse, no one expects anything more of him.
Cal Thomas writes for Tribune Media Services.
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