- The Washington Times - Monday, June 11, 2001

A peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians will bring peace to the entire Middle East. Without it, the wars and tensions that simmer among Muslim countries of the region will never disappear. Neither will the revolutions and coup detats and the daily tyrannies imposed on the people by their own rulers.
But peace begets not only peace but political freedom. So for first time in history, peace and democracy will become the way of life and government among the Muslim nations in the Middle East. This will be in obvious part the fruit of the decades of the example of Israel, the only democratic nation in the Arab world.
It seems so long, long ago that all this was believed by so many Israelis and foreigners even after it became so clearly a myth. But that long, long ago still lives.
The Arab states went to war against Israel long before its creation. The wars and only goal for the Arabs now is what it always was the death of Israel as an independent state, to be driven eventually from map and reality except as reminder of Satan in mosque, classroom,and on the webs.
In the half-century since Israeli independence, about 20 wars among Muslim Middle Eastern states have been fought, excluding the permanent war against Israel. Muslims have killed far more Muslims in those wars than they have Jews in Israel. None of the Muslim-against-Muslim wars had a thing to do with Jews just with power, oil, feuds and religious hatred within Islam.
So far, the only pragmatic effect of the myth that cease-fires will lead to regionwide peace is manufactured in Western foreign offices. They warn Israel that if it does not agree to still more concessions to the Palestinians, it will be guilty of blocking peace throughout the Middle East. I have even heard Israeli diplomats repeat the same blackmail warning to their own country. The reality is that agreements between Israelis and Yasser Arafat and his Palestine Liberation Organization methodically and consistently damage Israel, and strengthen his terrorist role.
Once upon a time, many Israelis and Americans tried to divide the two Yasser Arafats that lived in their minds the peoples political hero, and the terrorist threatening Israeli lives every day. Now they are beginning to see he is not a politician but the leader of a coalition of gangs. One day he says he mourns the young Israelis blown to bits by a suicide bomber but he cannot control such things. A few days later when the bombing of the crowd of young people deliberately selected as target startles Mr. Arafat by getting such a poor press, he says wants terrorism ended, for a while. Most of the gangs are permitted to say they will obey.
One or two of the integrated gangs, like Hamas, are encouraged to dissent, saying they will keep fighting Israel to the end. That is supposed to show how varied the Palestinian terrorists are and that he cannot be expected to control them all.
Foreign emissaries of high rank are sent to deal with and placate this man who can but cannot. They give him even more international status so they can keep visiting him after he creates a new ugly crisis.
Yigal Carmon is the president of the Middle East Research Institute, which is a strongly pro-Israeli organization digging up Arab speeches and documents that the Arabs emphatically do not want dug up and displayed to non-Muslim audiences. (www.memri.org). In his own analysis, he writes: "The most erroneous strategy conceivable is a harsh military response while continuing to adhere to the PLO as our political partner. The strategy we need is the opposite military restraint while declaring an all-out diplomatic war on the PLO in all the worlds capitals and in Israel itself."
Mr. Arafat prefers to refer to the Palestinian Liberation Organization as the Palestinian Authority, to emphasize its official government quality. Israel certainly has given plenty of that to him. The PA has created an army that engulfs the police and about 17 secret service detachments, all wildly exceeding agreements with Israel. The PA decides who gets taxed and who does not, who gets arrested and whether the arrests are for real or propaganda show.
Restraining: Minimally that mean putting the PA out of the terrorism business if it tries again. No other definition will suit. No PA setback will bring lasting peace not so long as the roll call of the worlds nations including Israel shows they are willing to continue arming, financing and encouraging it rather than treat it appropriately, as one more racist terrorist gang hiding behind children and holy-suicide madmen.

A.M. Rosenthal, former executive editor of the New York Times, is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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