- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 30, 2001

For the first time, Yasser Arafat has denounced the terrorists in his own ranks, actually calling them by the right name not activists, not militants, not gunmen, not manifestations of root causes, or some other euphemism du jour, but what they are: terrorists.
This first glimmer of reality in Yasser Arafat's always heated rhetoric, let it be noted, took place shortly after an American emissary, Anthony Zinni, was recalled after three weeks of trying to broker negotiations. Nothing seems to encourage peace in the Mideast like the withdrawal of this country's peace envoy.
There's a moral in there somewhere, and the State Department might be able to figure it out if it ever moved beyond its vague talk about a "cycle of violence." As if nobody actually started this latest intifada, as if it were a natural phenomenon that just comes and goes every few years, like El Nino. Well, it ain't. The root cause of terror is terrorists. Yasser Arafat is starting to acknowledge as much, even if it's only when he absolutely has to.
By now Chairman Arafat has deposited a few lower-ranking terrorists in his revolving-door prisons and made a gesture at arresting others. To make the charade complete, he has even detained some of his own Fatah terrorists. (One day they're acting on his rhetoric, the next they're under arrest for it.) At one point, a firefight did break out between different Palestinian factions; even the best orchestrated dramas can get out of hand.
While denouncing terrorists to the outside world, Yasser Arafat made a speech in Ramallah praising them as "martyrs." About the same time, he gave a radio interview in which he described the joy of Arab mothers when their sons blow themselves up. And his regime continues to reward the families of suicide bombers with cash stipends, apartments and other incentives. Even as he denounces terrorists, his regime recruits them from the next, thoroughly indoctrinated generation.
There are at least two Yasser Arafats, the Arabic version and the one dubbed for English-speaking audiences, and much is lost in the translation. But there is really no mystery about his intentions, not to those who listen carefully, or judge by results. Or the lack of them. (He still won't arrest the assassins of an Israeli Cabinet minister.)
Even his lip service to peace is an advance, but it's not likely to last if the pressure eases. Yasser Arafat is clearly reacting to European and American demands that he rein in his terrorists. It seems the latest slaughters of Israelis in Jerusalem and Haifa woke up even the State Department to the character of his regime. Or maybe it's September 11 that awakened this administration to the dangers of terrorism anywhere and to the word games its supporters play.
Yasser Arafat is clearly hoping a suspension of suicide bombings will suffice to appease the West. Then negotiations can resume where he broke them off back at Camp David, when he turned down the most generous deal offered Arab leaders since they rejected the partition of Palestine back in 1947. Yasser Arafat was offered more than 90 percent of the disputed territories and a capital in Jerusalem, but he didn't even bother to make a counteroffer.
So long as Israel was withdrawing, Yasser Arafat maintained the peace. When it became clear that the Israelis, while willing to give up Gaza and the West Bank and negotiate the rest, were not about to withdraw from Israel, the intifada resumed and intensified.
Under pressure from Israeli raiders and Western diplomats, Yasser Arafat may rein in the suicide bombers for a while. But they will remain on call, ready to be used when his next demand isn't met. And there will always be a next demand till there is no Israel to grant it. That's the plan, and it becomes unmistakable.
No one has summed up this piecemeal strategy better than his envoy in Jerusalem, the late Faisal Husseini, who in a candid moment put it this way: "If we agree to declare our state over the West Bank and Gaza, our ultimate goal is the liberation of all historic Palestine from the River to the Sea [the Jordan to the Mediterranean] We distinguish the strategic, long-term goals from the political phased goals, which we are compelled to temporarily accept due to international pressure."
And Faisal Husseini, please note, was described in the Western press as a moderate. By which is meant a Palestinian leader who would dismember Israel phase by phase instead of all at once. It has taken a murderous while, but after months of bombings, shootings and lynchings, most Israelis have recognized the stark reality: This is no peace process they're engaged in, but a war.
At least this much Yasser Arafat has accomplished: He not only brought down the Israeli premier most eager to make a generous peace, but, by revealing his true intentions, he has just about eliminated the Israeli peace movement. It, too, has been the victim of a suicide bombing. Because by destroying so much hope, Yasser Arafat has destroyed his own credibility, and even his relevance to any eventual settlement.

Paul Greenberg is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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