- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 8, 2002

Yesterday's suicide bombing at a billiards hall in Rishon Lezion, in which at least 16 people were killed and 60 more injured, is just the latest sign that Israel's war against terror is far from over. It remains to be seen whether the latest suicide bombing, which occurred while President Bush and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon were meeting at the White House, will drive home the reality to Mr. Bush that peace, and with it, an improvement in the lives of the Palestinians, is impossible so long as Yasser Arafat is running the Palestinian Authority (PA).

In recent weeks, Mr. Sharon and other senior Israeli officials have arrived in the United States armed with voluminous evidence of the role of Mr. Arafat and the PA in the brutal wave of terrorist violence that has claimed the lives of at least 486 Israelis since September 2000. To cite but one of many examples, documents seized from Orient House, the PA's former headquarters in Jerusalem, show that Mr. Arafat authorized funding to Atef Abayat, a leader of the Al Aqsa Brigades in Bethlehem who is on Israel's most wanted list, and to 24 other members of Mr. Arafat's Fatah faction of the PLO wanted for carrying out terrorist attacks against Israel.

Equally disturbing is the wealth of information presented by Israel in the past few days showing the large role played by Saudi Arabia in financing Mr. Arafat's Palestinian terrorist infrastructure. Documents captured during Israel's recent military campaign against the Palestinian terror network in the West Bank, Operation Defensive Shield, show that the Saudis have paid $135 million to terrorists and their families over the past 16 months, Col. Miri Eisen of Israeli Military Intelligence said. An 85-page dossier on the captured documents showed "the systematic and ongoing transfer of large sums of money to the Palestinians by official Saudi institutions for supporting the intifada," the Jerusalem Post reported yesterday.

Israeli military intelligence estimates that the families of dead terrorists receive as much as $33,000 each (an amount equal to what they would earn from roughly six years of work) from a variety of sources, and that Iraq has increased its contribution to each family from $10,000 to $25,000, with the Saudis providing $5,300, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar an additional $500 and the PA kicking in another $2,000.

Unfortunately, the Bush administration's response has been hopelessly muddled. Administration officials have yet to question the substance of the Israeli report; instead, they seem determined to ignore evidence of Saudi duplicity and Mr. Arafat's role in terrorism. Secretary of State Colin Powell, for example, continues traipsing around Washington with Saudi officials touting their "peace plan," as if everything is just swell, while White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and other officials made comments prior to yesterday's attack suggesting that Mr. Sharon shouldn't waste Mr. Bush's time with complaints about Mr. Arafat's role in terrorism.

As the horror in Rishon Lezion illustrates, Mr. Bush needs to swiftly repudiate such nonsense: All Mr. Sharon seeks is American support for dealing with the war being waged against his people by the Palestinian version of Osama bin Laden's terror network. He deserves strong American support, not sanctimonious handwringing and demands for more undeserved concessions to Mr. Arafat.

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