- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 18, 2002

The Bush administration keeps conferring legitimacy on Yasser Arafat. In the Middle East, "zero tolerance for terrorism" becomes "infinite patience with evil" in pursuit of an illusory peace.

Following a three-hour meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell on Saturday, Mr. Arafat signed a statement supposedly renouncing terrorism. In it, the man Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon calls the dispatcher of suicide bombers said he strongly condemned "operations that target Israeli civilians."

The rest of the declaration was devoted to denouncing the "terrorism" of Israel's Operation Defensive Shield as if Israeli soldiers fighting armed fanatics were the equivalent of Palestinians turning outdoor markets into mortuaries.

Mr. Arafat's sincerity may be seen in comments his wife made hours earlier. Suha Arafat told an interviewer that if she had a son, she could conceive of "no greater honor" than having him strap on an explosive belt and head for Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.

Getting Mr. Arafat to disavow terrorism is like going to Al Capone after the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and asking him to sign a gun-control petition.

The Palestinian chairman is the world's longest-running terrorist act on which the curtain rang up in 1965. Since he initiated the current bloodbath in September 2000, more than 400 Israelis (mostly civilians) have been murdered.

Documents the Israelis found in Mr. Arafat's Ramallah compound show him paying for the slaughter of Passover celebrants, bat mitzvah guests and Jerusalem shoppers.

A bombing-making superstore (stocked with hundreds of kilograms of explosives, fuses and shrapnel) was discovered in the headquarters of Jibril al-Rajoub, Mr. Arafat's security chief.

Yet another death factory, replete with bomb belts, was found in the offices of Tawfiq al-Tirawi, the Palestinian Authority's intelligence chief, who shares Mr. Arafat's compound.

And still the administration engages in its lethal charade.

Mr. Arafat "has not consistently opposed or confronted terrorism," President George W. Bush said in Rose Garden remarks earlier this month. Newsflash, circa 1944: "Chancellor Hitler has not consistently opposed or confronted genocide."

White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer says the president believes the path to peace "goes through Chairman Arafat." In that direction lies not the path to peace but a highway to hell paved with diplomatic delusions.

The day after his meeting with Mr. Powell, Mr. Arafat said there would be no "cease-fire" (by which he means he'll keep sending the "martyrs" into Israel to scatter body parts) until Israeli Defense Forces fully withdraw from the West Bank. He renounces terrorism, but in the same breath says the terrorism will continue if his conditions aren't met.

Mr. Arafat is drowning, and the administration is trying to toss him a lifeline. He sees the terrorist infrastructure lovingly fashioned since he and his gang first infested the territories after Oslo being demolished before his eyes, as he's cornered in his Ramallah bunker.

Israel is in the process of surgically cleansing terrorist cells in Arafatistan. On Monday, it nabbed Marwan Barghouthi, a leader of Mr. Arafat's Fatah faction, who's responsible for scores of homicide attacks. Mr. Sharon says that within a week he will be able to withdraw from all of the West Bank except Bethlehem and Ramallah.

The operation has been that successful. In March, 125 Israelis died in 12 suicide bombings (comparatively more than America's losses on September 11). In the first half of April, there were exactly two suicide bombings and 16 deaths. A precipitous pullout now would only assure a resumption of the carnage.

Bomb factories are being demolished, terrorist ringleaders and foot soldiers rounded up, and illegal arms and ammunition seized. Will it put an end to suicide bombings? Of course not, any more than our campaign in Afghanistan precludes the possibility of another attack on our soil.

But every Israeli advance on the West Bank every Barghouthi captured, every bomb factory put out of business is a victory for civilization. Only Mr. Bush and Mr. Powell can save Mr. Arafat and, in so doing, resurrect his crusade to drive the Jews in the sea.

The road to peace runs not through Mr. Arafat, but over his prostrate body.

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