- The Washington Times - Friday, November 12, 2004

The death of Yasser Arafat leaves the future uncertain for Palestinians. To maintain his near-absolute hold on power in the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Arafat refrained from creating a clear line of secession, increasing the likelihood that his passing would be followed by internecine conflict, up to and including a civil war in the West Bank and Gaza. Whatever happens, it is abundantly clear what Mr. Arafat’s most enduring legacy to the Palestinian people will be: misery and suffering.

But no one would ever know by the press coverage of Mr. Arafat’s death. In the United States, the major networks cut short their coverage of Veterans Day ceremonies to show the corpse being carried by a military honor guard in Cairo. Although the newspapers and networks occasionally noted Mr. Arafat’s record of violence, this was frequently “balanced” with dubious references to his supposed efforts as a peacemaker and his fight for freedom for the Palestinian people. With their failure to carefully examine the catastrophes Mr. Arafat visited upon Arabs and Israelis alike, the empty suits and skirts in the U.S. media seem to have lost their moral compasses and their judgment.

Few have played as large a role as Mr. Arafat in creating the modern infrastructure of international terrorism. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, he molded the Palestine Liberation Organization into the model for a generation of international terrorist organizations. Long before Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda perfected the art of suicide terrorist attacks, Mr. Arafat and the PLO specialized in hijacking airplanes, executing diplomats, attacking “military” targets like apartment buildings, schools and hotels and murdering Olympic athletes.

After Mr. Arafat and the PLO triggered a civil war in Jordan, they were expelled from that country in the early 1970s. So Mr. Arafat and his comrades relocated to Lebanon, where they triggered a civil war in 1975 and provoked an Israeli invasion of that country in 1982, which resulted in the expulsion of Mr. Arafat and his fellow terrorists.

Following the defeat of his top patron, the Soviet Union, in the Cold War, and the defeat of his replacement top patron, Saddam Hussein, in the Gulf War, then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and then-President Clinton tried to rescue Mr. Arafat from political oblivion through the Oslo peace process of 1993. The Oslo talks were designed so that Mr. Arafat would receive diplomatic recognition from Israel, and Israel would cede substantial portions of the West Bank and Gaza to the Palestinians. Eventually, this was to result in the creation of a Palestinian state. All that was required of Mr. Arafat was that he crack down against terrorist groups and refrain from inciting anti-Israel sentiment. For seven years, Mr. Arafat’s compliance with his commitments was sporadic and half-hearted at best, even as successive Israeli governments went the extra mile to make the peace process work.

In July 2000 at Camp David, Mr. Clinton and then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak made Mr. Arafat a most generous offer: Israel would relinquish Gaza and virtually the entire West Bank to the Palestinians, who would receive an independent state; Israel would share Jerusalem with the Palestinians; and many thousands of refugees would have been allowed to relocate into the new, independent Palestinian state in the West Bank. The international community would likely have donated billions in loans and grants to resettle and rehabilitate the refugees. Mr. Arafat rejected this deal, and on Sept. 29, 2000, unleashed a war of terror that continues until today; more than 1,000 Israelis have been killed in the past 49 months, while the Palestinian death toll during this period is more than twice that.

While millions of Palestinians continue to languish in squalid refugee camps throughout the region thanks in large part to his obduracy, Yasser Arafat became rich. Forbes magazine recently estimated his personal fortune at approximately $300 million — wealth accumulated largely through questionable business deals and stolen foreign aid money. Other estimates put the amount embezzled at more than $1 billion. This is the legacy of Yasser Arafat — a man who became very rich while trafficking in murder and theft and sabotaging the national aspirations of his own people. His only hope now lies with an extravagantly merciful God.

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