- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 26, 2002

A suicide bomber exploded himself and wounded 24 others in a crowded Tel Aviv shopping area yesterday. The force of the bomb's nail-studded explosives turned over benches and shattered shop windows. Back in the West Bank, Palestinians from Ramallah handed out candy in celebration of the attack.
Enough is enough. Yesterday, President Bush gathered his national security advisers to consider all the options including severing ties with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat all together. Other options include shutting the Palestinian Authority's offices in Washington and suspending Middle East envoy Anthony Zinni's peace mission. The White House must now balance the desire to send an unequivocal message to Mr. Arafat that terrorism is unacceptable with considerations of the security implications cutting ties with the leader would bring.
One factor is whether more terror will fill the void once the Palestinian leader is gone. "I think we'd better be very careful here before we start cutting off relationships, because of the questions that follow … What is the alternative? Who then do you deal with?" Sen. Chuck Hagel, Republican from Nebraska and member of the Foreign Relations Committee, said yesterday.
The administration is also considering what will happen to its Middle East allies aiding the war on terrorism. When Secretary of State Colin Powell made his tour through the Middle East shortly after the attacks of September 11 to court the Arab world, he was given a condition the United States must get more involved in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. This the administration did so with fervor, sending two envoys to the region Gen. Zinni and Assistant Secretary of State William Burns and declaring its backing for a Palestinian state. Severing ties will obviously put an end to any direct U.S. involvement.
Yet the Palestinians leave little room for choice. The administration said this week that the U.S. peace effort in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had already been derailed by the recent discovery of a Palestinian ship with arms from Iran. "Ordering up weapons that were intercepted on a boat headed for that part of the world is not part of fighting terror, that's enhancing terror," Mr. Bush said.
The promises to fight the war on terrorism by Mr. Arafat (and by Iran) have not been kept. It should not take countless suicide bombers and several more shiploads of smuggled munitions to remind the world of that. Now the administration must decide how valuable its Middle East allies are in the war on terrorism. It must also decide how high it sets the bar for these "allies." Is the administration content with a verbal expression of commitment, while countries shelter and sponsor their own terrorist groups? If the answer is no, the administration would be justified in cutting ties with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat immediately.

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