- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 14, 2002

While the media remains fixated on the politics surrounding the Likud Central Committee's vote to oppose the creation of a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River permanently, it tends to overlook the much more important problems of today continuing Palestinian terrorism that would make any such state a serious threat to Israel. If anything, the Likud vote does show that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who is constantly caricatured in the press as an "enemy of peace," has actually become Israel's foremost defender of what's left of the peace process begun under Yitzhak Rabin. With his unsuccessful effort to block former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's proposal to foreclose the possibility of a Palestinian state, Mr. Sharon has put his political future on the line in an effort to help President Bush's desperate efforts to broker some kind of Mideast settlement no matter how outrageously the Palestinian side behaves.

Yesterday's New York Times aptly illustrates the almost dismissive way in which the media report on the continued security threats Israelis face. Buried on page A8, in the 22nd paragraph of a front-page story by Steven Erlanger entitled "Sharon's Party Repudiates Palestinian State," the Times quoted a senior Defense Ministry official as stating that despite Israel's recent military campaign in the West Bank, "we are intercepting almost one suicide bomber a day and finding a car bomb a day." The official added that Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer (the head of the relatively dovish Labor Party) believes that it is possible that "after two to three months, maybe four months, things will be back to the way they were before." In other words, the Palestinian terrorist network that operated throughout the West Bank before the Israeli military offensive began on March 29 will be able to reconstitute itself.

No less disturbing is the fact that, when it comes to talk of "reforming" the Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority (PA), the Palestinians themselves have very different ideas from well-intentioned folks in Washington and Europe. Last weekend, for example, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice stated that the PA "has got to reform" and that the Palestinian leadership must be "democratic, transparent and non-corrupt … what we ask of every government in the world."

In an article that appeared in Thursday's Jerusalem Post, reporters Miriam Shaviv and Mohammed Najib interviewed a number of senior Palestinian officials about reforming the PA. Arafat adviser and Palestinian parliamentarian Marwan Kanafani denounced Miss Rice and Israelis who have made similar suggestions, calling them "wicked plans." Mr. Kanafani said bluntly that any reforms the Palestinians would make would be aimed at making the fight against Israel more efficient. The main reason for cleaning up corruption and appointing a new Cabinet, Mr. Kanafani said, is "to help the ability of the Palestinian people to resist and reject Israel." The Bush administration must make it clear to Mr. Arafat and his backers that, if this is their idea of "reform," the United States will have no part of it.

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