The U.S. State Department, in concert with Israeli officials, has concluded that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat has entered into an agreement with Iran whereby he would receive from Iran heavy weaponry and millions of dollars for use in the fight against Israel. In fact, the Karine A, a ship from Iran loaded with tons of weaponry that Israel seized in January, is believed to have been part of this deal.
“There’s plenty of evidence that it wasn’t a rogue operation,” one State Department official said. In other words, Yasser Arafat himself is involved in these insidious dealings. This is the same Chairman Arafat who is supposed to be negotiating a peace with Israel, and that is part of the reason that Vice President Cheney refused to meet with him.
But calling off a meeting is not enough. The United States is still committed to brokering an accord between Arafat’s Palestinian Authority and the State of Israel. This policy is hypocritical. Iran, because of its enmity toward the United States — a hatred expressed these days by funding terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas — has been rightly included in President Bush’s “Axis of Evil,” the short list of rogue nations who are a threat to America and to the world. In hammering out a deal with a nation like Iran, the Palestinian Authority is proving itself uncommitted to any sort of peaceful resolution to the Middle East conflict, and good company for al Qaida, Hamas and the rest.
After Sept. 11, the Bush administration declared war on terrorist organizations worldwide. The President is rightly committed to apprehending members of these organizations by whatever means necessary. And yet, when the Palestinian Authority is found to be funded by a member of the Axis of Evil in the same manner as other terrorist organizations, the United States only cancels a meeting, and remains committed to facilitating a peace accord as long as the PA cleans up its act just a bit.
Did the United States ever give ear to al Qaida’s demands? Did President Bush offer to sit and talk with Osama bin Laden, if only he’d cut back on the Great Satan rhetoric and restrain his forces a little more? Of course not; our government recognized that bin Laden was orchestrating these attacks and would treat an invitation to negotiate as an opportunity to engineer more of them. The United States needs to acknowledge that Yasser Arafat is not only failing to prevent terrorist activity but is encouraging it. The only difference between Arafat and bin Laden is that Arafat pretends otherwise.
It is possible that this is, in fact, the Bush administration’s private stance. We may well be massing for another war against Iraq, and it would be unwise to alienate further the other Arab nations in the region by removing all support for the Palestinian cause and declaring its most visible champion an outlaw. In the event of another Gulf War the United States would be to some degree reliant on surrounding nations for oil and support.
But the United States does not negotiate with terrorists. Every day that we persist in the charade of the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority costs lives: Israeli, Palestinian and American. More important, we send the clear message that the United States will allow terrorists to operate if doing so serves its short-term interests. Such a stance is an insult to the memory of those who have given their lives in this conflict.
There are millions of innocent Israelis and Palestinians who look only for an end to this violence. Unfortunately, the Palestinian leadership is not among these millions. For the United States to acknowledge Yasser Arafat as anything other than a terrorist and an enemy of peace is dangerous and inconsistent. History will not forgive our hypocrisy. Nor will those who have yet to die because we are too afraid to do what is right.
Chaim Bloom is a sophomore in Silliman College.