In December, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat called for armed actions against Israel to stop. Within weeks, the Israeli navy seized what the Israeli government calls the most dangerous illegal arms shipment ever attempted.
The cargo ship, bound for Gaza City and apparently organized by the Palestinian Authority, contained a waterproof cornucopia of weapons and explosives: machine guns, missiles, rockets, sniper rifles, grenades, anti-aircraft missiles and C-4 explosive for suicide bombings.
Israel’s seizure of these armaments likely prevented new levels of slaughter. The cargo of the ship would have enabled unprecedented shelling and missile launches from Palestinian protected land. And the anti-aircraft missiles included in the shipment would have given terrorists the potential to take down flights coming in and out of nearby Ben-Gurion Airport.
Nearly 10 years ago, Mr. Arafat stood on the White House lawn and signed the Oslo peace accords. This effort turned out to be more of a commitment to public relations than to peace. Despite the accord, the violence has continued, and the goal appears to be the absolute destruction of Israel. When he signed Oslo or denied knowledge of the weapons shipment to Gaza, Mr. Arafat claimed to seek peace, but it is a claim with little evidence to support it.
Whenever the United States calls for peace in the Middle East and ignores egregious acts or potential acts of terrorism tacitly approved by the Arafat regime, we send the message that we are not serious about a peaceful and free Middle East.
The talking clearly isn’t working. Israel has made great efforts to negotiate with Mr. Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. Israel has sent leaders of every stripe to establish a formal reconciliation. Despite the best intentions of Americans and Israelis, measurable progress toward peace in the Middle East is not imminent.
When President Bush launched the war on terrorism, he led with a simple charge to the United States and its allies: “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.”
As we fight the war on terrorism elsewhere, we cannot ignore the Middle East terrorism that has been occurring despite our best efforts for even longer.
Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, is chief deputy majority whip in the U.S. House of Representatives.