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So now what?

Both the Israeli government and Palestinian leaders agreed to a U.S. proposal to end the siege of Arafat. Arafat wouldn't agree to hand over prisoners to Israel, and, given his history, Israel wouldn't trust Arafat to keep people in prison. So now the prisoners will stay in Arafat's custody, but American and British observers will monitor the situation to make sure they stay in prison. In exchange for allowing this, Arafat gets freedom of movement within the West Bank and Gaza.

The conventional wisdom is that this is supposed to provide Israel with some breathing room in its attempt to hold off the U.N. inquisition over the Jenin massacre hoax. Maybe it will. But since the U.N. has shown itself ready, willing, and able to blame Israel no matter what the situation, that seems a weak approach. Maybe it's just a way to hold Arafat more accountable for terrorist attacks like the one at Adora on Saturday. The Palestinian-apologist argument has been that Arafat can't be blamed for terrorist attacks because he was impotent as long as Israel was isolating him. Well, now he won't be isolated, and won't have that excuse.

That's certainly how President Bush sees it:

President Bush said yesterday he expects Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to "condemn and thwart terrorist activities" within the next 72 hours. Top Stories

     The president sent that message shortly after he personally negotiated a deal to end the Israeli siege that has trapped Mr. Arafat at his West Bank compound since March 29.

     Mr. Bush said the next few days will prove how serious the Palestinian chairman is about ending the violence.

     "His responsibility is just what I said — to renounce, to help detect and stop terrorist killings. And the message can't be more clear, and we're going to continue to hold people accountable for results," Mr. Bush said.

     Saying "much hard work remains" to reach peace in the Middle East, Mr. Bush focused on the role Mr. Arafat will play.

     "Chairman Arafat should now seize this opportunity to act decisively in word and in deed against terror directed at Israeli citizens," he said.

     Mr. Arafat "hasn't earned my respect," the president said. "He must earn my respect by leading."


     Having arranged the deal to free Mr. Arafat from his monthlong captivity in the West Bank town of Ramallah, Mr. Bush said: "Chairman Arafat is now free to move around and free to lead, and we expect him to do so. One of the things he must do is condemn and thwart terrorist activities."

Yeah, and then he'll cure cancer and land a manned spaceflight on Mars.

It's hard to see what Israel has gained from this exchange. If history shows us anything, it's that Arafat never keeps his promises -- but that this failure by Arafat never helps Israel win the support of the so-called international community. So now Israel doesn't have the prisoners they want (unless Britain and the U.S. plan to keep their monitors there indefinitely), and Israel doesn't have Arafat. All Israel has is the quixotic hope that Arafat will suddenly turn into a statesman. When that doesn't happen, Sharon will be able to say, "I told you so" -- but that's not going to be much consolation.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 29, 2002 2:26 AM.

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