Israel has the right, need to stand up to Arafat, terrorism

  • George Will / Washington Post columnist
  • Wednesday, December 5, 2001 9:00pm
  • Opinion

WASHINGTON — Coming from the territory for which Yasser Arafat is responsible, terrorists last weekend killed 26 Israelis, a portion of Israel’s population that is equal to 1,240 Americans. America is projecting power halfway around the world to collapse the Taliban regime because it harbors terrorists. It would be disgusting for America to call for Israeli "restraint" and to disapprove if Israel cleanses its back yard of Arafat’s Palestinian Authority regime that welcomes terrorists except when, to distract America, it yet again promises to pass a few through the revolving doors of PA jails.

It is time for a novel approach to the war between Israel and Arafat’s Palestinian Authority. The approach should begin with wisdom from a Donald Westlake crime novel mordantly titled "What’s The Worst That Could Happen?" Westlake’s amiable crooks want to rob a Las Vegas Casino, but don’t know how. One of them says he has a lot of ideas, but Westlake writes: "A whole lot of ideas isn’t a plan. … Ideas without a plan is usually just enough boulders to get you into the deep part of the stream, and no way to get back."

The latest U.S. idea is to send retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni to pick up the shards of the last idea, which was to send CIA Director George Tenet to implement former Sen. George Mitchell’s idea for a cease-fire followed by a cooling off period followed by "confidence-building" measures. The idea of the Mitchell plan is that neither side is to blame — neither Israel, which wants to exist, nor the Palestinians who do not want it to; neither the Palestinians who want to plant nail bombs on buses, nor Israel, which would prefer the Palestinians not do that. Rather, a mutual lack of "confidence" is to blame.

There is this much truth in that idea: the Palestinian Authority lacks confidence in Israel’s willingness to commit suicide, and Israel lacks confidence that the PA will stop insisting on suicide as part of a "peace" agreement.

The idea behind dispatching Mitchell was to pick up where Dennis Ross left off. (Did you know that Donald Rumsfeld was special emissary to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 1983-84? There were many emissaries before him, and have been many since.) Ross’ task, which he undertook with the energy and wisdom of a beaver, was to oversee the Oslo "peace process," which turned on Arafat’s renunciation of violence. That process has required lots of overseeing, considering that terrorists have killed more Israelis in the eight years since Oslo began in 1993 than in the 45 years of Israel’s existence before that.

The idea behind Oslo was for Israel to "take a risk for peace" — as though getting on a bus, visiting a pizzeria or disco, and walking down a street are not risky enough for Israelis. Israel would take a risk by yielding something tangible, control of land, for something intangible, Arafat’s promises of peace. Israel did that. The current war refutes the Oslo idea.

The idea behind Oslo was to capitalize on the "spirit of Madrid," an Israeli-Palestinian conference convened in 1991, in the aftermath of the Gulf War. The idea behind Madrid was. … Does anyone remember?

You must remember this. On Aug. 31, Arafat, world’s senior terrorist, did a star turn — at one point strolling with America’s senior friend of terrorists, Jesse Jackson — in Durban, South Africa, at a U.N. orgy of hate directed against Israel and the United States and bearing an Orwellian title: World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. It was the kind of sewer of ideas that prepares the climate for the sort of things that happened in America 11 days after the conference opened, and what happened last weekend in Israel.

Now Israel should be as bold in its self-defense as America is being in its. In 1982, Israel drove Arafat and his thugs from Lebanon to Tunisia. He and his thugocracy have earned another expulsion from the eastern end of the Mediterranean. If he cannot control his territory, it is in anarchy and Israel must subdue it. If he can control it but won’t, he has earned expulsion under the principle America cites in expelling the Taliban from power.

If expulsion strikes the U.S. State Department as, well, immoderate, here is a moderate version of the idea. When next the peripatetic Arafat flies off to visit world capitals, Israel should not let him come back: he cannot land in PA territory if Israel does not let him.

That is more than an idea. It is a plan.

George Will can be reached at The Washington Post Writers Group, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20071-9200.

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