Small World

Jewish World Review Nov. 21, 2000 / 23 Mar-Cheshvan 5761

Take back Arafat's Peace Prize

By Richard Z. Chesnoff -- I DEMAND a recount! And not just in Florida! I want a recount of the 1994 Oslo poll that voted Yasser Arafat a Nobel Peace Prize.

Arafat's co-winners of the prestigious prize, Shimon Peres and the late Yitzhak Rabin, proved themselves more than worthy. But if anyone has proven himself undeserving, it's the aging terrorist redux, who is doing more to destroy peace than anyone else in the Middle East.

Just consider the evidence: Despite his promise to end the bloodshed sweeping the Holy Land, Arafat remains ominously silent. Not a single call to his people to stop the violence, which surged again yesterday. Not a single broadcast on Arafat-controlled radio or television urging Palestinians to refrain from attacking Israeli troops and civilians and to limit themselves to peaceful protests. Instead, the Palestinian leader has stepped up his rhetoric, calling for "the total liberation of Jerusalem," an old Arab buzz phrase for Israel's destruction.

Arafat's lieutenants — who act on his commands — have been worse. Imad al Falouji, his minister of communications, boasts, "We are proud to carry out terrorist attacks against our enemy, against Israel." Marwan Bargouti, the fiery West Bank leader of Arafat's Al Fatah faction and the man behind the masked units and the armed attacks on Israelis, calls for "tightening the noose."

What's more, Arafat has not only released some of the worst Islamic terrorists from prison, he has allowed their leaders to go on TV and radio and openly call for attacks on Israeli civilians.

His schools still teach hatred of Israel, and his appointed Islamic leaders still preach "the eradication of Jews from all of Palestine," meaning Israel.

Let's get one thing clear: Arafat is a dictator. He controls the Palestinian Authority, the media, the armed Palestinian units, the whole pita and falafel. If he wanted to stop the demonstrations, the stone-throwing and the screams for blood, he could do it quickly.

Some people claim it's too late, that he tried to stop some armed exchanges just this week but failed. I don't believe it's out of his control. But if it is, it is his fault. And it stems from his stubborn refusal in September to accept the generous peace plan that President Clinton brokered at Camp David: sovereignty and a sharing of Jerusalem — deals that the Palestinians haven't seen on the table since 1947.

Instead of the "peace of the brave" — a phrase the Palestinian leader used to bandy about — Arafat has chosen a war of the cowardly: sending children out to fight.

The problem is still the basic one: Arafat, who already controls the territory in which some 90% of West Bank and Gaza Palestinians live, doesn't want a peacefully negotiated settlement, because he doesn't really accept Israel's right to exist within peaceful boundaries. And, like the rest of the Arab world, he hasn't given up using Israel as the whipping boy for his own despotism and corruption.

Now he is blaming Clinton for the crisis — and he's been joined by some misguided mavens in the West. As they tell it, it's Clinton's fault because his herculean attempt at peacemaking was "overly ambitious" at best, "arrogant" at worst. Which means that when Clinton pushed Arabs and Israelis up against the negotiating table and said, "Boys, the time has come to reach a deal," he precipitated the bloodletting.

What utter nonsense! No one, including Jimmy Carter, has devoted more effort and realized more success in the region, despite the current problems, than Clinton.

So I have another suggestion: Let whoever finally wins the presidential election appoint Bill Clinton as our full-time Mideast peacemaker. Then we lift Arafat's Nobel Prize until he stops the violence and gets on with peacemaking.

JWR contributor and veteran journalist Richard Z. Chesnoff is a senior correspondent at US News And World Report and a columnist at the NY Daily News. His latest book is Pack of Thieves: How Hitler & Europe Plundered the Jews and Committed the Greatest Theft in History.


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