- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon arrived in Washington with a message to the Bush administration: The world cannot sit back and watch terror unfold in the Middle East and destabilize the region. Only strong international pressure will bring an end to Palestinian violence and lessen the need for Israel to use force to protect its citizens. Moreover, the ongoing leadership of the United States is central to this effort.

On June 13, the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreed to a mutual, comprehensive cease-fire and the initiation of specific, concrete, and realistic security steps, as stated in the Tenet working paper. Sadly, as of today, there is no cease-fire. Since its acceptance, we have witnessed the continuation of Palestinian violence, the increase of Israeli casualties and the refusal to reign-in known terrorists such as the two masterminds of the Tel Aviv disco bombing on June 1. (The Palestinian Authority knows who they are, where they are, and refuses to arrest them.)

Indeed the Tenet-brokered cease-fire has yet to commence. Israel has ceased fire alone.

Yasser Arafat has clearly violated the terms he agreed to put into effect on June 13. The cease-fire has not stopped the Palestinian Authority from, as laid out in the Tenet working paper, inciting, aiding, abetting, or conducting attacks against Israeli targets. The fire still rages as Israelis continued to be killed.

Israel is doing everything in its power to enable Mr. Arafat to prove that he is a willing partner in our quest for peace and stability in the region. This cease-fire is a testing period for him to demonstrate his commitment to laying the foundation for a peaceful future. We have entered into three previous cease-fires and endorsed both the Mitchell Committee Report and the Tenet paper in an attempt to create an environment conducive to negotiations but currently to no avail. With each agreement breached by the Palestinians, the line between peace partner and adversary continues to blur.

Mr. Sharon is exercising true leadership and maximum restraint despite continued provocation by the Palestinian Authority and growing Israeli public pressure to respond. Mr. Sharon's restraint exemplifies Israel's desire to end this conflict, return to the negotiating table and restore stability to the Middle East.

Still, our restraint has limits. Israel has the right, indeed the obligation, to protect its citizens in keeping with the fundamental principle of self-defense as enshrined in international law and the charter of the United Nations. Israel like any other civilized country will not sit back and allow the deliberate murder of its citizens.

The world cannot let Mr. Arafat believe it approves of his tactics and acquiesce to a strategy of violence. Unrelenting terror continues under the guise of a cease-fire and threatens to destroy the possibilities that both Mitchell and Tenet offered. The United States and the international community must urge Palestinian officials to exercise genuine leadership, stop incitement, and guide their people towards a future of peaceful coexistence.

David Ivry is the ambassador of Israel to the United States.

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