- The Washington Times - Monday, October 9, 2000

The real hero of the Isaac story was the ram/ Who didn't know about the conspiracy between the others/

As if he had volunteered to die instead of Isaac.

I want to sing a song in his memory/

about his curly wool and his human eyes/…

These lines were written by the Israeli poet Yedhud Amichai, who died last month, but his words could describe the world's grief at the death of Rami al-Dirreh, the 12-year-old Palestinian boy killed in the crossfire between Palestinian rioters and Jewish soldiers.

Rami was too young to appreciate fully the danger he faced, too young to understand fully why bullets were flying overhead, or why, indeed, his father had chosen to take him to the riot. Not the sort of occasion to which most fathers would take their children. But we all Jew, Muslim, Christian and unbeliever weep for Rami, for he is dead, an innocent with human eyes who will never grow up to understand why men can kill each other in the name of peace.

Such pity for the pitiless death of a small boy, however, shouldn't blind us to the facts of what is going on the West Bank and why. Many blame Ariel Sharon, a fierce and handy villain for both demonstrators and doves, for his visit to Jerusalem's Temple Mount, a holy site to both Arab and Jew, during the Jewish New Year. Whatever his critics think of Ariel Sharon, he did not start this violence. Palestinians were killing Israelis for two days before the leader of the Likud Party climbed the Temple Mount.

Ehud Barak, Israeli prime minister, would have been irresponsible if he had not armed his soldiers with real bullets after Yasser Arafat ignored pleas to rein in his lethal rioters. Mr. Barak believed what the rest of us suspected, that the swift escalation of violence by the Palestinians could not have erupted spontaneously, but had to be carefully planned and coordinated. These are not simply children throwing rocks, but Palestinian police armed with rifles with lots of bullets. Surely Mr. Arafat could have used his influence, even if his influence is not what it once was, to stop them.

Zalman Shoval, the former Israeli ambassador to the United States who now lives in Tel Aviv, tells how quickly the stones and Molotov cocktails morphed into machine guns aimed at Israelis, and asks: Where did the Palestinians get their illegal automatic weapons?

It's not difficult to imagine that Mr. Arafat planned the violence to strengthen his own hand and to extract more concessions from Israel. A day before the rioting began, a bomb exploded on a bus in the Gaza strip, killing an Israeli citizen. Palestinian security forces are suspected of planting it.

Enemies of Israel have taken advantage of the high holy days in the past, knowing this is a time when Jews will be at prayer and reflection. The Yom Kippur War, after all, was not started by the Israelis.

Nor should the rest of the world forget that the Temple Mount, sacred to all, was opened to all only when Jerusalem was united in 1967. When it was under Arab control, Jews were denied access to it.

Foreign policy issues are easily reduced to sound bites in presidential debates, but both presidential nominees Al Gore and George W. Bush should be put on the spot to clarify their intentions about what to do about Yasser Arafat's double-dealing. Mr. Bush has no history on this, but Mr. Gore does.

In 1986, when he was a U.S. senator from Tennessee, Mr. Gore signed a letter urging that the United States seek the indictment of Mr. Arafat for the 1973 murders of a U.S. ambassador and his charge d'affairs in Khartoum. Intelligence tapes, obtained at that time, reflected the Arafat voice congratulating the killers.

Three years later Mr. Gore along with 67 other senators wrote letters asking that Mr. Bush's father's administration deny a visa to Mr. Arafat when he was invited to address the United Nations. He firmly refused then to accept moral equivalence between Israel and the PLO led by Mr. Arafat, although he suggested he might change his mind if the PLO renounced violence against Israel. The violence, as we have seen these past few days, has escalated.

The Clinton-Gore administration has given Mr. Arafat new diplomatic legitimacy, a man deemed worthy to negotiate an agreement for peace. The violence on Temple Mount reminds us all, Mr. Gore included, that Mr. Arafat remains a wolf, his appetite unsated, posing in very tattered sheep's clothing. Rami al-Dirreh's human eyes were closed in death because others stood by, blinded by the real enemy.

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