Monday, November 19, 2001

Secretary of State Colin Powell is expected today to use a major policy address to emphasize United States support for a Palestinian state.

Reportedly, Mr. Powell will announce an expanded role for the United States in negotiating a settlement between the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. This move seems designed in part to satisfy Arab nations, such as Jordan and Egypt, that believe greater American involvement in the “peace process” will achieve a reduction in violence and lead the way to a peace agreement.

There has been a lot of debate in recent years over the viability of a Palestinian state. One thing is for certain. Support for a Palestinian state ruled by Yasser Arafat raises serious security concerns and is the wrong policy to pursue given the nature of the conflict in the Middle East.

The existing violence in the Middle East is the result of Chairman Arafat’s conscious choice to use violence against innocent civilians. Mr. Arafat’s use of terrorism as a policy instrument suggests that his aims include not only the establishment of a Palestinian state, but also the complete elimination of Israel as the home of the Jewish people.

Mr. Arafat introduced modern-day terrorism to the world. Yasser Arafat began by forming a small organization named al-Fatah, which in 1965 launched one of the first military operations against Israel. Following the Arab-Israeli war in 1967, Mr. Arafat and al Fatah escalated their campaign of violence to include terrorist activities, and in 1969, Mr. Arafat expanded his terrorist reach by asserting leadership over the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

Some of the more spectacular terrorist atrocities committed by the PLO under Mr. Arafat’s stewardship include the first major hijacking of a plane an El Al Israel Airlines flight in 1968 to Algeria.

In September 1970, Mr. Arafat oversaw the hijacking of four flights, and during the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Mr. Arafat directed the kidnapping and murder of Israeli athletes.

Mr. Arafat is not only a terrorist aiming at Israel, he has a record of striking against America. Two U.S. diplomats in the Sudan were killed in 1973, when Palestinian gunmen affiliated with the Black September organization stormed a reception at the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Khartoum. Mr. Arafat’s link to these murders was later proven by Israeli intelligence, which provided the State Department with an audiotape of Mr. Arafat giving the order to have the American diplomats killed.

The hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship in October 1985 resulted in the murder of an American passenger. Mr. Arafat also held responsibility for the foiled 1990 terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, which served as a distraction to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Since the signing of the Oslo Accord, Mr. Arafat has maintained his commitment to the use of terror and to armed Jihad, even as Israel has continued to turn over land to the Palestinian Authority. Some of Mr. Arafat’s more egregious violations of Oslo and subsequent agreements include his failure to disarm and disband terrorist organizations and his recruiting of terrorists for the Palestinian police.

Ultimately, as early as the spring of 2000, Mr. Arafat personally ordered active preparations for the late-September outbreak of the still-unfolding Intifada, while the peace process was in full swing.

As recently as last week, Mr. Arafat continued his policy of arresting, and then releasing, known terrorists. Senior Islamic Jihad terrorist Mahmoud Tawalbi was arrested by Palestinian police, and released shortly thereafter upon orders by Chairman Arafat. Mr. Arafat’s action was in response to a request by Islamic Jihad, which is recognized by the State Department as a terrorist organization.

It appears Mr. Arafat continues to operate on the theory he can achieve through terrorism what he cannot achieve through negotiations. Hence, Mr. Arafat is not a suitable “peace partner” under the policy President Bush established during his Sept. 20 address to a Joint Session of Congress. The president warned: “Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.”

Mr. Arafat harbors, supports, and engages in terrorism. To voice a commitment to a Palestinian state under his leadership would reward Mr. Arafat’s record of terror. An end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will only be achieved when Mr. Arafat and the nations of the Middle East accept the existence of a secure Israel as a permanent condition of an enduring peace.

If a just leader committed to peace does not exist for the Palestinian people right now, perhaps now is not the time to call for the creation of a Palestinian state.

Eric Cantor is a Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia.

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