- The Washington Times - Monday, June 10, 2002

You have to hand it to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak: When it comes to brazenness and sheer, unmitigated gall, few American "allies" come anywhere close to the Egyptian strongman. Just days after press reports that Mr. Mubarak's Stalinist friends in North Korea have delivered engines for intermediate-range Nodong missiles to him (with the help of that famous world peacemaker, Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi), President Bush warmly received the Egyptian leader at Camp David.
The meeting at Camp David a hideaway usually reserved for presidential talks with America's staunchest allies served primarily as a forum for Mr. Mubarak to pressure Mr. Bush into coming up with a timetable for concessions to Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Yasser Arafat, including the creation of a Palestinian state. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who arrived in Washington yesterday for meetings with Mr. Bush, agrees with the broad Israeli consensus in favor of the eventual creation of such a state. But its borders and the timetable for establishing one are a matter for negotiation between Israel and responsible Palestinian leadership. Mr. Mubarak wants to short-circuit this process by having the United States impose a settlement on Israel.
While Mr. Bush urged quick movement toward creation of such a state, he had the good sense not to yield to Mr. Mubarak's demand for a timetable for statehood concessions. The president politely suggested that the Palestinians need better leadership and might be better off living under someone other than a tyrant like Mr. Arafat.
In fairness to Mr. Mubarak, this is a uniquely bad time to be demanding more concessions to Mr. Arafat, given the latest murder spree launched by Palestinian terrorist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who Mr. Arafat has enabled to thrive in areas of the West Bank and Gaza under his dictatorial control. On Wednesday, Islamic Jihad detonated a bomb alongside a bus in Megiddo, killing at least 17 Israelis and wounding nearly 40. The PA did announce yesterday that it had arrested the head of Islamic Jihad in Gaza. But it is likely to be more of the same flim-flam that has occurred since Mr. Arafat and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin signed the Oslo I agreement at the White House in 1993 while a beaming President Clinton looked on: The PA pretends to arrest certain terrorists, only to release them a short time later.
On Saturday, a pair of Palestinians gunned down an Israeli soldier and his pregnant wife at their home near the West Bank town of Hebron on the Jewish Sabbath, then killed an Israeli soldier who came to their rescue. (Nabil Abu Rdeinah, a top aide to Mr. Arafat, said Israel was to blame for the slayings.) On Friday and Saturday, at least six heavily armed Palestinians died while on their way to carry out a series of attacks on Israelis in the West Bank and Gaza. Mr. Arafat declared Sunday that if Israel doesn't yield to his territorial demands, there will be a "disastrous explosion" that will impact the "stability of the whole world."
When he meets Mr. Sharon, Mr. Bush will undoubtedly have all kinds of good sound bites on the need to come up with an alternative Palestinian leadership to "reform" the PA. The hard part comes when Mr. Sharon asks a serious question: How does a Palestinian publicly stand up to a thug like Mr. Arafat without getting shot for being a "collaborator" and left hanging from a telephone pole in lovely Ramallah, Nablus or Hebron?

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