Jewish World Review Feb. 4, 2002 / 22 Shevat, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com -- THE leaders of the European Union have demonstrated once again why serious people do not take them seriously.
Many who previously backed him say Yasser Arafat's days as head of the Palestinian Authority are numbered. Tom Friedman of the New York Times has described him as "dead man walking." Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post said Arafat's continuation in office "primarily threatens the interests of the Palestinian people."
Palestinians themselves are talking openly of a successor, unheard of in the Arab world, where the king is considered immortal until the king is dead. But at a meeting in Brussels Jan. 28, EU foreign ministers issued a statement saying: "Israel needs the Palestinian Authority and its elected president, Yasser Arafat, as a partner to negotiate with, both in order to eradicate terrorism and to work towards peace."
Each day brings news of yet another terrorist atrocity, as Arab suicide bombers attack civilians, most of them women and children, at restaurants, shopping malls and bus stops.
But the EU foreign ministers had words of condemnation chiefly for Israel. Israel should "withdraw its military forces and stop the extra-judicial executions, lift the closures and all restrictions on the Palestinian people and its leadership," their statement said.
"I think it is very dangerous if the United States is supportive of the Israeli government," said Sweden's Anna Lindh.
How anyone could still regard Arafat as a "partner in peace" boggles the mind. For months, liberals have been debating earnestly whether Arafat is unwilling to halt the violence, or unable to do so. The correct answer probably is both.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad appear to be acting independently of his authority. But many terror attacks are being conducted by forces directly controlled by Arafat. And Arafat's attempt to smuggle into the PA 50 tons of weaponry from Iran does not telegraph pacifistic intentions.
The EU leaders are out to lunch. But there could be more at work here than that. Many in Europe eagerly collaborated with the Nazis in their efforts to exterminate the Jews. Anti-Jewish sentiment, especially in the upper classes, is a long way from gone, as an incident at a London dinner party illustrates.
At a party in December at the home of newspaper magnate Conrad Black, Daniel Bernard, the French ambassador, described Israel as a "(obscenity) little country." Why, asked Bernard, "should the world be in danger of World War III because of those people?"
Bernard's remarks indicate he is as stupid as he is bigoted, because his hostess, JWR columnist Barbara Amiel (Black's wife) is Jewish. Any American politician who said such a thing would be toast. But the French government stood by Bernard, perhaps because the views he expressed were not his alone.
The kindest explanation for the EU's blindness toward Palestinian terror and Arafat's duplicity is cowardice. Europeans cling to the illusion of a failed peace process because they flinch at having to face the harsh choices recognition of reality would force upon them.
"The alternative to the Palestinian Authority is Palestinian anarchy," said EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
But this reasoning is foolish for anyone who is not reflexively anti-Israel. When Arafat falls, there is a slim possibility he will be replaced by a Palestinian who would negotiate in good faith. This would be better than Arafat, who has broken every promise he has made.
There is a much greater likelihood that Arafat will be replaced by a leader who is openly hostile to Israel. But that would be better for Israelis than to continue in power a ruler who is as committed to the destruction of Israel as anyone in Hamas or Islamic Jihad, but who lies about it.
A third possibility is that civil war would break out among Palestinian terror groups. But then they would be killing each other instead of Jews, which could be considered worse than the current state of affairs only if one preferred to have them kill Jews.
Whether the EU's counsel is motivated by bigotry, cowardice, or just plain
stupidity, President Bush should give it the disregard it deserves.
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