- The Washington Times - Friday, January 25, 2002

When the time comes to fish or cut bait, as every good ol' boy knows, everybody has to pay attention.

George W. Bush is teaching the world that lesson. With a vengeance, you might say.

He's wrapping up the Afghan campaign, though an unexpected firefight south of Kandahar yesterday, wounding an American and killing 15 al Qaeda terrorists, is proof that the Afghan fat lady has not yet sung her farewell. But we're already moving on to the Philippines in behalf of the civilized world.

Right to the point, Secretary of State Colin Powell has finally told Yasser Arafat, the distinguished Nobel Peace Prize laureate, that it's up to him whether he makes peace with Israel. The obvious corollary is that if he doesn't, someone else will make it for him, if not make peace in his memory. There are signs that we're finally coming to terms with the obvious, that the Palestinians and not the Israelis are the obstacles to peace in their corner of the Middle East.

For the first time in a long time, if not the first time ever, the State Department declined to indulge in its usual diet of moral equivalence, and this time did not lecture both sides to knock off the violence. "At this juncture, we think that steps by Chairman Arafat to end the violence and to end arms smuggling are what's important," said Mr. Powell's press spokesman. "We don't consider that there's any excuse for that kind of terrorism that has existed, nor is there any excuse for not taking effective steps to stop that terrorism." The message, couched in the passive, inside-out abuse of the language that is the essence of diplo-speak, is nevertheless clear: "It's up to you, Buster, and if you don't shape up, somebody is going to bend you into shape."

The Israelis, no doubt heartened by this conversion to reality, may take this to mean that they have a free hand to do what has to be done. They clearly expect more of the worst. Yediot Ahronot, the authoritative Jerusalem daily, quoted Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeevi-Farkash as having told Israeli legislators to expect Palestinian mischief "worse than what we have experienced so far in Israeli cities." To do that, the suicide bombers, with their appetite for demonstrating manly bravery by killing women and children you never pick on someone your own size if there's a child available to blow up will make grim mischief indeed. Hamas, the heroes of our own Council on American-Islamic Relations, vowed "all-out war," and the secretary of the Palestinian Cabinet said the Palestinian Authority could not (read would not) enforce a cease-fire. "We are not able to enforce any of our commitments," he said.

The sudden public U.S. recognition of the Palestinian reality is particularly significant given that the warning to Yasser Arafat comes from Colin Powell, who has taken more than a little heat for bending so far over backwards to think generous thoughts about Mr. Arafat that his friends were afraid he would fall over. He had the doubly dubious honor of standing with the Europeans, some of whom are barely with us on the war in Afghanistan and nearly all of whom are willing (if not eager) to sell out Israel when convenience demands.

There's dawning recognition that Israel's war on terror is of a piece with the U.S. war on terror. Turkish newspapers reported yesterday that al Qaeda officers have infiltrated Gaza and the West Bank, apparently to determine whether Osama bin Laden's terrorists should move their operations there. Palestine, some of them have concluded, might be more amiable than Somalia.

This should, but won't, be instructive to European "friends" like Daniel Bernard, the French ambassador to London, who expressed wonderment at a famous London dinner party over why the world "should be in danger of World War III" because of Israel, which he described as a little country made up of the stuff found on the floor of a chicken house. Barbara Amiel, a columnist for the London Daily Telegraph and as the wife of Conrad Black, the proprietor of the Telegraph, the hostess of the evening, reported the remark, and the outrage was not over the ambassador's contempt for an ally of the West, but that he got caught saying it. The incident recalled a famous Washington dinner party at the beginning of the Reagan administration that the late Pamela Harriman secretly recorded with a tape recorder hidden in the flowers in the center to the table. Someone sent a copy of the tape, on which Clark Clifford described Ronald Reagan as "an amiable dunce," to the Wall Street Journal, and Mrs. Harriman wouldn't show her face, even in Georgetown, for a month. Barbara Amiel, however, performed a public service by identifying, as George W. might think but could never say, "who's with us and who's not."

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