- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 14, 2001

The blast from a bomb detonated by a suicide bomber in a Jerusalem pizzeria sent civilians, still in their chairs, shooting through the air. As victims hit the ground, heads flew off, rolling down the street. A couple and three of their children were killed. A 4-month-old baby and an American tourist were among the 15 dead. A girl of 3, with glass covering her face, finally found her mother among the bodies after the blast, but was unable to wake her. This account, given by USA Today correspondent Jack Kelly, who had just decided against eating at the crowded restaurant and was only 30 yards away when the bomb went off, cuts to the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. It is no longer about peace, or even a shadow of a peace process. It is about a campaign of terror aimed at innocent civilians … a campaign Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has blessed.
With nothing but violence as a foundation for negotiations, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was ready to offer a gesture of trust yesterday when he gave Foreign Minister Shimon Peres permission to meet with Palestinian leaders about how to revive a cease-fire. Mr. Peres said the talks would cover military and civilian issues, and an Israeli report said the minister favored pulling out of the Gaza Strip in exchange for a cease-fire. This is ill-advised. Just last year, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered a pullout of areas in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and Mr. Arafat rejected the offer. Since then, violence has increasingly filled the leadership void that is Mr. Arafat's tragic legacy to his people.
This rejection, which took the form of unrestrained terror tactics, was nothing new. When a suicide bombing occurred in Tel Aviv in 1994, killing 20, Yitzhak Rabin and his government put faith in the Palestinian leadership to halt the violence, but they did not. Back in 1994, the militant group Hamas, which also claimed responsibility for last Thursday's bombing, was still treated by the Israeli government as a common enemy. Subsequent terrorist attacks have made it clear that that they were mistaken. Mr. Arafat may have denounced the Thursday attack, but Israel remains understandably unconvinced.
In fact, the message from the Palestinian information minister was deeply offensive. "We believe Sharon alone is responsible for the violence," he said. If the Palestinian leadership believes shedding innocent blood is the only way to end what they term "the occupation" by Israeli forces, their people should be very afraid. That these leaders use the murder of civilians to achieve their ends does not bode well for the Palestinians' future. Mr. Arafat's superficial condemnations should also frighten the Palestinians, who have had to endure such double speak for too long.
After the June 1 bombing in Tel Aviv, which killed 21 persons at a disco, Mr. Arafat agreed to a cease-fire and had his offices evacuated for fear of a reprisal attack. But the orders he supposedly gave to the paramilitary organizations did not register. Only six weeks later, the Islamic Jihad decided to strike with another bomb, targeting a crowded train station in Jerusalem. This week, the paramilitaries did not even wait that long. On Sunday, the Islamic Jihad struck again, this time in a coffee shop, where the suicide bomber killed himself and wounded 20.
It is obvious that Mr. Arafat has no desire to stop this campaign of terror. He, his government, his paramilitary friends and his military officers who condemned the arrest of Hamas members in the wake of the bombing must be held accountable for their actions.

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