- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 25, 2002

President Bush made it unmistakably clear yesterday that Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Yasser Arafat is the No. 1 obstacle to freedom and a good life for the Palestinians. Speaking from the White House, Mr. Bush rightly emphasized that the Palestinian Authority must reform itself first. That means getting rid of Mr. Arafat and the terrorism that has flourished under his brutal hand.
Although the president did not mention Mr. Arafat by name, he delivered a scathing critique of his leadership, pointing to the "official corruption" that has long pervaded the PA as an obstacle to peace with Israel. "Peace requires a new and different Palestinian leadership so that a Palestinian state can be born," Mr. Bush said. For the Palestinians to obtain a state of their own at the side of Israel, "reform must be more than cosmetic changes or a veiled attempt to preserve the status quo."
Mr. Bush was most forceful and eloquent in demanding that the Palestinians get out of the terrorism business for good. He warned the Palestinians to oppose efforts to smuggle Iranian arms to terrorist groups operating in the West Bank and Gaza, and demanded that Syrian dictator Bashar Assad shut down terrorist camps in areas under his control.
Mr. Bush declared that the United States will assist the Palestinians in working toward statehood within three years if they elect new leaders who aren't stained by continuing involvement in terrorism. "It is untenable for Israeli citizens to live in terror. It is untenable for Palestinians to live in squalor and occupation. The current situation offers no prospect that life will improve," Mr. Bush said. "When the Palestinian people have new leaders, new institutions and new security arrangements with their neighbors, the United States of America will support the creation of a Palestinian state." Its borders and "certain aspects of sovereignty" would be provisional until resolved as part of a final peace settlement with Israel.
Clearly understanding that democracies where there are mechanisms for curbing executive power tend not to provoke wars with their neighbors, Mr. Bush said that the Palestinians should hold legislative elections by the end of this year, and that their new state-in-waiting should have a constitution. He said the United States, the European Union, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund would stand prepared to help oversee Palestinian financial reforms, and that the United States and other developed nations would increase humanitarian assistance in order "to relieve Palestinian suffering."
In all, this is a credible outline for achieving peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. But it is only an outline. Achieving the first critical step in Mr. Bush's plan engineering the removal of Mr. Arafat and instituting "new and different" Palestinian leadership is likely to be the most difficult. The president must impress on certain members of his administration that they must not undermine his message, with schemes of their own, in the days ahead.


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