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The Problem, Not the Solution

The Problem, Not the Solution

As Israel decides to remove Yasser Arafat, the UN Security Council seeks to protect him. Here, Israel's UN ambassador gives the Israeli view.


September 15, 2003

On September 13 we commemorated the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Principles on the White House lawn. That was a time of hope for the people of the region and of the world, that the leadership on both sides was committed to a peaceful and negotiated resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At that time, and despite well-founded reservations, Israel was willing to believe that Yasser Arafat had abandoned the path of terrorism and embarked on the road to true reconciliation and mutual recognition. It was on the basis of that commitment, that Mr. Arafat entered Palestinian Authority territory to implement his obligations under signed agreements.

Unfortunately, as we have all known for some time, Mr. Arafat lied. Israel, like other members of the international community, has come to this conclusion reluctantly and painfully. More than any other state, we invested a great deal in Mr. Arafat's word, and were willing, against our better judgment, to heed calls from other states to forgo or forgive Mr. Arafat's failures even at the earliest stages of the peace process.

Arafat has brought untold suffering to the region, and denied the promise of peace and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

As much as we all hoped for the opposite result, it is abundantly clear that the person with the standing to deliver a fair and genuine peace on the Palestinian side has done the most to bury its chances. We cannot ignore the facts. His continuing rejection of Israel's right to exist, his denial of the ancient ties of the Jewish people to its homeland, and his support of terrorists and their tactics has brought untold suffering to the region, and denied the promise of peace and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians alike... Among the litany of deliberately missed opportunities, the Palestinian leadership, under Mr. Arafat's control, rejected at Camp David the opportunity for the establishment of a Palestinian state side-by-side with Israel, in favor of the path of terrorism that he, as one of its masterminds, has never really abandoned...

There is hardly a single Israeli citizen today who has not been affected, directly or indirectly, by Palestinian terrorism. The equivalent number of casualties in a country with a population of that of the UK would be 84,609 citizens. This figure may give us all some pause in comprehending the devastating impact that the Palestinian leadership's refusal to confront the terrorists in its midst has had on the people of the region...

The brazen refusal of the Palestinian leadership to fulfill its obligations to dismantle terrorist organizations, and join the global campaign against terrorism has exacted a heavy toll on Palestinian society. By allowing terrorists to set up shop in the heart of Palestinian civilian areas, in grave violation of international humanitarian law, Mr. Arafat has seriously endangered the lives of innocent Palestinian civilians. By stifling dissent, preventing the emergence of democratic institutions and violating the human rights of Palestinians, including the Palestinian Christian community, he has set back the development of a vibrant and responsible Palestinian society. By allowing only one voice, while nurturing a myriad of competing security and terrorist organizations, he has succeeded in perpetuating his own corrupt rule at the expense of the welfare of Palestinian civilians...

He is amongst a select group of terrorist entrepreneurs who have fostered airplane hijackings and suicide terrorism.

He is amongst a select group of terrorist entrepreneurs who have brought airplane hijackings, massacres of Olympic athletes, the killing of children sleeping in the shelter of their own beds, and suicide terrorism, to a region that yearns for peace and stability. And he is at the helm of those who have been supporting mega-terror attacks, in the style of the bombing of the Twin Towers, to bring the region to the brink of catastrophe. Today such immoral tactics, stamped with Mr. Arafat's label of origin, are callously and indiscriminately exported beyond our region.

Knowing all this, for how long will there be states among us who are willing to continue the charade of touting Mr. Arafat as a legitimate leader committed to the welfare of his people and peaceful relations with his neighbors...

Since efforts have been underway to restart the peace process through the road map, Mr. Arafat has played a wholly destructive role at every step of the way. He has actively sought to prevent the Palestinian Prime Minister from fulfilling the Palestinian obligations under the road map. He has sabotaged attempts to establish and new and different leadership in the Palestinian Authority, which stood at the basis of President Bush's vision.

He has refused to allow the consolidation of security forces under the control of an empowered minister for internal security, so that finally, responsible Palestinians can act to completely dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, as they are morally and legally obligated to do. After voicing his active objection to the appointment of Mr. Mahmoud Abbas, Mr. Arafat pressured members of the Palestinian legislative council to narrow Mr. Abbas' control. He has acted to undermine Mr. Abbas from the beginning of his tenure to the very end, until Mr. Abbas was compelled to resign and admit publicly that Mr. Arafat had not given him the authority to fulfill the obligations that the Palestinians had taken upon themselves.

He has continued to encourage acts of terrorism and violence, and kept renegade terrorist groups like the Tanzim under his direct control so that at any given moment he could scuttle efforts to renew dialogue by directing the murder of innocent civilians. And he has worked to prevent efforts made to introduce transparency and accountability in Palestinian Authority finances, so that money can continue to be funneled into his private accounts. He has signed peace agreements with one hand, and signed checks to terrorists and suicide bombers with the other...

In other instances, members of the international community have recognized that certain leaders are so destructive to the rights of their own people and to the security and stability of their region, that their legitimacy must be questioned. Mr. Arafat is no exception.

How many more children have to die? How many more concerted peace efforts need to be scuttled before the world is willing to denounce Mr. Arafat's role in a clear voice?

And yet, when is the UN Security Council galvanized into action? Was it galvanized to act after the horrific suicide bombings which killed 22 and injured 135 on a crowded bus in downtown Jerusalem filled with families and children returning from prayers at the Western Wall? Was it galvanized to act when two suicide bombings, at a cafe in Jerusalem and a bus stop in central Israel, killed a total of 15 and injured more than 70 Israelis, just hours apart?

The Council may have already heard that these latest attacks were perpetrated by terrorists recently released by Israel as part of a goodwill gesture towards the Palestinian leadership. They are further evidence that every gesture made by Israel, and every risk taken for the sake of peace has been answered with criminal action and inaction on the part of the Palestinian leadership, under Mr. Arafat's control...

It would be a grave error if the Council were to come to the aid not of the victims of terrorism, but of their sponsor and perpetrator. The Council's focus should be directed first and foremost at terrorism and at its facilitators, and not at the response to terrorism. Pressure should be directed against the problem and not against those who are its victims...

It is time to expressly admit that Arafat is part of the problem and not part of the solution.

In perpetuating this game of legitimizing Mr. Arafat, we fundamentally undermine our efforts to allow an empowered Palestinian Prime Minister to work to implement the road map and reach a peaceful solution. Such a policy serves the interests of no one other than the terrorists that Mr. Arafat continues to support. It is time we expressly admitted that he is part of the problem and not part of the solution.

Israel holds out hope that a new and different Palestinian leadership that categorically abandons the ways of Mr. Arafat, will be ready to fully and responsibly implement its obligations to fight terrorism and incitement. If it does so, it will find in Israel a willing partner ready to make painful compromises, as it has proven before, to realize President Bush's vision...

In the two years following September 11, Mr. Arafat has continued to demonstrate that he is on the wrong side of history and that he refuses to learn any lessons about the effects of terrorism for both Israelis and Palestinians. Rather than taking responsibility to build a genuine, democratic Palestinian society that can live in peace with its neighbors, he has turned Palestinian victim-hood into a professional enterprise and Palestinian suffering into a source of power and personal prosperity. We will bring no benefit today to the cause of peace, or to the legitimate rights of Palestinians and Israelis, if we come to the defense of someone who has brought only suffering and the promise of further bloodshed.

September 17, 2003

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 30

(30) DONALD VITELLI, October 5, 2003 12:00 AM



(29) redentor, September 28, 2003 12:00 AM

Death to the murderer!

Thirty years ago what i've learned about Arafat is he was a leader of terorism,if we dont make any move to protest his leadership,innocent children are mostly affected.Lets pray to our Almighty God that He will end Arafat's evil act of terror.Arafat deserves death penalty!

(28) Atoussa, September 28, 2003 12:00 AM

Changing the mirror

The key issue facing the world today is that our leaders do not mirror the will of the citizens. Arafat, like most so called leaders of his generation mirrors the thoughts of an elite minority. The same can be assumed for most countries. Having said this, we must also accept that positive change does not materialize through force. Sustainable change emerges when citizens of any country begin to exercise their rights, yes even their human rights. Although removing Arafat seems like the straight line between the 'now' and the 'future', life has taught us all that success is not always achieved through the straight line. As a non-Israeli and non-Arab my fear is that any more radical military moves will lead to more killings of innocent people and to a further isolation of Israel by the international community. I do not have any easy made solutions, but believe that we must focus our energy on identifying a third way. For as long as the citizens of our region continue to depend on external forces to mediate our situation, we will not reach our potential in designing our own collective future. When reflecting on this situation, I often find myself asking 'what is the guidance of the almighty?'--

(27) Anonymous, September 26, 2003 12:00 AM

I really symphatized with the Israelis who has gone through so much sufferings. The world must continue to pray that Mr. Yasser Arafat will come to realise that Israel, once a desert, has now been transformed into rich and fertile land. This is because the Jews had so painstakingly rebuilt the land to what it is today. Mr. Yasser Arafat should allow Israel to exist in peace with all it's neighbours and enjoy the fruits of their labour.
Mr. Arafat, please put an end to all the suicide bombings!

(26) Anonymous, September 26, 2003 12:00 AM

No end in sight

The trouble is that now that Arafat has global support from the UN down to almost every nation on the planet, including the US, I dont see how Israel can make good on their decision to get rid of him. I hope they have the courage and determination to see this through with a minimum of fuss. With allies like the US and Bush, who are only interested in OIL and global dominance, Israel simply has to take this on by themselves no matter what!!

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