In the wake of three U.S. diplomats losing their lives in a terrorist attack on their convoy in the Gaza Strip, Secretary of State Colin Powell delivered powerful remarks, in which he condemned the "heinous acts" and pledged to bring "the murderers to justice."
Too bad the actions of his department fail to live up to his lofty rhetoric.
FBI agents on the ground trying to solve the "heinous acts" are running into resistance not just from overt terrorist operations but from the U.S.-backed Palestinian Authority, which several administration officials diplomatically describe as being "less than cooperative."
Not even that obstruction, though, seems to have shaken State's misplaced faith in the PA.
For years now, the State Department has given PA Chairman Yasser Arafat last chance after last chance but really, there has never been anything "last" about the chances Arafat keeps receiving. Because State continually strives for "stability" a value-neutral goal it never wants to risk sudden change, which has resulted in a seemingly endless string of empty threats. Arafat has carefully cultivated a culture of death, and now it has mushroomed into an uncontrollable and unquenchable beast.
By all accounts, Arafat is not directly responsible for every terrorist attack that occurs. But though he may not have always ordered attacks, his deliberate decision to allow Hamas and Islamic Jihad not to mention his own al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade to continue operations unhindered leaves blood on his hands just the same as if he had. To paraphrase President Bush, there is no distinction between terrorists and the governments that harbor them.
Arafat's "reward" for creating the terrorist network otherwise known as the Palestinian Authority? Some $175 million in direct and indirect aid, according to the State Department, which includes $20 million in cash given to the PA this summer. While some of those funds support legitimate humanitarian efforts, a huge chunk either promotes incitement and indoctrination or is used to maintain Arafat's iron-fisted control over Palestinian society.
In fairness to State, Israel itself resurrected Arafat from Tunisia, where he otherwise would have remained a marginalized former leader. But Israel's stupidity should not excuse our own. And though Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon seems incapable of determining a coherent approach to Arafat, the U.S. should provide necessary leadership to scuttle Arafat instead of clinging to him like a 5-year-old clutching a security blanket.
And State should be leading the charge to dismantle the Palestinian terrorist infrastructure.
If the convoy bombing were the first attempt to target U.S. officials, State's caution might make sense. But it's not.
On April 29, two young Arab men intent on killing innocent civilians headed to Mike's Place, a bar located on the Mediterranean waterfront in Tel Aviv - and more significantly, right next to the U.S. Embassy. It is also the known hangout for U.S. employees, including many who work for the State Department. So when one of the two young men successfully detonated himself barely 20 yards from the embassy guard it was an attack against the United States.
The attack on Mike's Place, which claimed the lives of three innocents, was not the first attempt to strike a target within a stone's throw of the embassy. Several months earlier, a would-be suicide bomber was thwarted as he tried to commit mass murder at a cafe next to the embassy just on the other side from Mike's Place.
In all, more than 50 Americans have been killed in the region since the start of the intifada. Yet U.S. taxpayer money keeps flowing into the West Bank and Gaza literally going into blood-covered hands.
Of course the president deserves criticism for continuing to deal with Arafat, but the real mystery is why has State not seen the light? It's not that State's diplomats don't care about the murder of three colleagues they do but their obsession with stability prevents them from facing the painfully obvious reality. And not even multiple attempts to kill U.S. officials will deter State from seeking "stability."
But as anyone who has lived under the thumb of a tyrant can attest, "stability" simply means more of the same. And with Palestinian terrorists repeatedly targeting Americans, "stability" is simply not acceptable.