First there was Charles Krauthammer, and then Martin Peretz and William Safire. Then Cal Thomas, Tom Friedman and Jeff Jacoby joined in. And then many others joined the chorus as well.
Months ago, from the beginning of the "Al-Aqsa Intifada," just a few journalists declared that Arafat was responsible for initiating and perpetuating the bloodshed – both through his leadership of a dozen terrorist factions, and through the official incitement of Palestinian textbooks and television.
Today, more and more media outlets are coming to the same conclusion – that Arafat is the problem, not the solution. Even Time magazine, a frequent critic of Israel, laced into Arafat last week in a column entitled, "Unfortunately, Arafat's No Nelson Mandela." Time's Tony Karon wrote:
"Arafat never made clear to his own people the massive compromises involved in the Oslo Peace process... Arafat told his people that he was in negotiations with Israel that would lead to the creation of a Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital. On the ground, though, all they could see was the arrival of a class of PLO bureaucrats from Tunis who began to rapidly enrich themselves on the aid money pouring into the Palestinian Administration..."
Beneath a sub-headline, "Pulling the keffiyeh over Palestinian eyes," Karon accuses Arafat of "speaking out of two different sides of his mouth all along, but now [after Camp David] the game was up... And that left him no room to maneuver, except stir up confrontation in the hope that it would force the Israelis and their American backers to offer him a better deal."
5 More Eye-Openers
Lally Weymouth – "ADVANTAGE SHARON" – Washington Post – June 9
"A frustrated U.S. diplomat no longer spoke of equal blame on both sides. He had this to say of Arafat: 'He's impossible. He's a lying, cheating murderous bastard who lives in his own fantasy world.' When Sharon says in cabinet meetings, 'My word is my word,' it's true, said this diplomat. But when it comes to Arafat? 'He's totally unreliable'... 'Does Arafat get it?' asked one worried U.S. official. He noted that the PLO leader 'has not come to grips with the reality that if there is no action there will be a painful price to be paid by many Palestinians.'"
Tom Friedman – "IT ONLY GETS WORSE" – New York Times – May 22
"...[T]he settlements are not the core problem. The core problem right now is Yasir Arafat – the Palestinian leader who cannot say 'yes' and will not say 'uncle.' President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Ehud Barak put on the table before Mr. Arafat a historic compromise proposal that would have given Palestinians control of 94 to 96 percent of the West Bank and Gaza... Not only would Mr. Arafat not take it, he would not even say: 'Well, this was insufficient, but this is the most far-reaching and serious proposal Palestinians have ever seen. Now, I want to enter into a dialogue with the Israeli people and government to see if I can get them to 100 percent'...
"No, instead, Mr. Arafat launched this idiotic uprising. He did so because he is essentially a political coward and maneuverer, who apparently has not given up his long-term aim of eliminating Israel and who was afraid in the short run that if he took 99 percent, he would be killed for the 1 percent he left on the table..."
Charles Krauthammer – "LAND WITHOUT PEACE" – Washington Post – May 18
"Last October, Arafat decided to tear up Oslo and start his guerrilla war against Israel; now he complains that according to the piece of paper he has torn up, his territory is inviolable. Even Hitler did not have the audacity to complain about Britain's declaring war on him (after he invaded Poland) on the grounds that Britain had pledged peace at Munich... They're fighting, the [Palestinians] now say, because of the expansion of settlements. That rationale... is equally absurd. At Camp David and then at Taba in the dying days of the Clinton presidency, Israel offered the Palestinians their own state and Israeli withdrawal from 95 percent of the disputed territories. The vast majority of settlements would have been uprooted...
"He is fighting because the Jew-free Palestinian state is hardly his only goal. There will be no peace, he pledged, until the millions of Palestinians living abroad are returned to Israel – and thus extinguish it as a Jewish state. Palestine first, then Israel. For decades the West assured Israel that its security depended on 'land for peace.' Arafat, it turns out, is fighting for land without peace."
Jim Hoagland – "FRESH OUT OF SYMPATHY FOR ARAFAT" – Washington Post – June 7
"...Arafat's [ceasefire] declaration – withheld for seven bloody months and given only under duress – is important as a political barometer, whatever its fate on the battlefield. It reveals Arafat's inability to rally world opinion predominantly to his side throughout this crisis, as he did in leaping from the smoldering ruins he helped create in Jordan and Lebanon... Weakness – failure – is not a useful weapon when Israel is not widely seen as a brutish Goliath intent on using force to keep its war gains... The spurning of Barak at Camp David and the terrorist attacks that have followed have drained the global reservoir of sympathy for the Palestinians. His call for a cease-fire suggests that even Arafat finally understands this."
Jeff Jacoby – "THE SETTLEMENT MYTH" – Boston Globe – May 31
"...It hasn't taken long for the Palestinian line – Jewish settlements justify Arab violence – to become conventional wisdom. 'Stop those settlements,' commands The Economist this week; it asserts that Jewish neighborhoods in the territories 'negate all chance of Palestinian-Israeli peaceful coexistence.' The Chicago Tribune editorializes: 'There is little incentive for the Palestinians to return to the table without an Israeli freeze on settlements.' Nonsense. Eight months ago, Israel offered not only to freeze its settlements but to dismantle most of them and pull out of 98 percent of the territories altogether...
"The more Israel has agreed to give, the more enraged and uncompromising the Palestinian reaction has been. A paradox? Only to those who have never mastered Appeasement 101: Give a dictator the sacrifice he demands and you inflame his appetite for more."