Yasser Arafat has signed two major agreements,
"countersigned" and "guaranteed" by the President of the
United States, in which the main thing that he promised in
return for legitimacy and control of millions of people was
to renounce violence. Even the late Yitzhak Rabin, who
concluded and signed the agreements found it an effort to
shake the hand of the celebrated terrorist. It was the
renunciation of violence that made Arafat into a "former"
terrorist and thus a candidate for participation in
ceremonies on the White House lawn.
Though there were warnings all along based on the fact that
the Palestinian Authority did not educate its people for
peace but for war, the events of the past month and a half
have made it perfectly clear that Arafat has not renounced
violence and terror. He publicly identifies with the
constant shooting and certainly stands behind the release of
all the terrorists from the PA prisons.
Nonetheless, the Israeli leaders declare their readiness to
continue talking to him about peace, whenever he is ready.
Unfortunately they must continually reaffirm their readiness
since outrage follows outrage, and they do not want to leave
the impression that after the most recent outrage perhaps
they are no longer willing to negotiate.
The world seems to have accepted that Arafat has norms of
behavior that are radically different from those that are
expected of virtually every other member of the modern
family of nations. He can do whatever strikes his fancy and
the only reaction he gets is a plea to behave normally. He
can commit himself to stopping the terror while continuing
to encourage it. He can be received with honor in world
capitals while continuing to shoot at innocent civilians and
provoking attacks to get his own people killed so that he
can complain of excessive Israeli force. And the minute that
he has decided that he has nothing more to gain from the
violence, everyone will be so grateful and eager to meet him
again to talk "peace."
One of the most often-heard statements from the Left is that
we must continue with the peace process with the
Palestinians because there is no alternative. It is true
that no one in the past ten years has articulated any other
policy than some variation of the process that was started
seven years ago at Oslo. Even the Right has only argued for
variations in tactics and the speed of the process, but it
has basically accepted that the key issues will be worked
out in negotiations with the Palestinians.
This is certainly the best -- and for now the only -- way to
go. It is clear that refusing to speak with Arafat is
something that the entire world will not accept.
However, there is nothing to prevent us from preparing a
genuine alternative to a negotiated peace settlement with
Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. The alternative is
simply to make better preparations for the conditions that
have prevailed for the past month and a half. Since the goal
of terror such as Arafat is using is not to secure a
military victory in the conventional sense but to wear down
the adversary so that he will surrender or retreat (such as
Israel did in Lebanon), the better prepared we are to
weather the intifadah conditions, the more likely it
is that the Arabs will abandon them and negotiate