As President Bush laid out the moral divide so clearly two years ago, there are but two sides in the War on Terror: the terrorists and those fighting against them. International leader after international leader has been asked to pick sides, and even most of the dictators and strongmen have wisely sided with the United States.
But one leader who is openly flirting with the terrorists—after years of overtly protecting them—is still receiving at least the nominal support of the United States: Palestinian Authority dictator Yasser Arafat.
The Associated Press reports that Arafat is looking to create a leadership organization that would include, among others, Islamic Jihad and Hamas, the most notorious of Palestinian terrorist groups.
Arafat has been down this road before, of course. This time, however, there seems to be more urgency.
The holdup in the past, notes the AP, has not been over morality or ethics, but rather power: “In the past Palestinian Authority officials have said they would be willing to cooperate with Hamas if it recognized the authority's leadership. Hamas has so far not responded to the proposals.”
In other words, Arafat has no problem whatsoever partnering with a group responsible for the suicide bombing deaths of 52 mostly young Palestinians and 377 mostly civilian Israelis. The only sticking point is that the bloodthirsty terrorists must submit to Arafat’s leadership.
Arafat’s leadership, of course, would not necessarily mean less bloodshed. It would merely mean better-organized mass murder.
So why is news that Arafat is openly wooing avowed terrorists be met largely with silence that implies quiet acceptance from the international community?
In the War on Terror, it is obviously necessary for the United States to work in the short-term with any number of unsavory characters. Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak and now Libyan madman Moammar Ghadafi, to name a couple of “partners,” are not exactly guys you’d like to invite to the family picnic. And for the record, nobody’s foolish enough to believe that the likes of Mubarak and Gadhafi are entirely on the up-and-up.
But that’s a far cry from publicly locking arms with some of the bloodiest terrorist organizations on earth.
By expressing both a willingness and desire to partner with Hamas and Islamic Jihad in a new organization that apparently would function parallel to the Palestinian Authority (PA), Arafat has removed any pesky gray area. It would take a creative explanation to differentiate this from the Taliban’s partnership with al Qaeda.
Then again, Arafat’s own history should leave little doubt. His three organizations—Tanzim, Fatah, and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade—have combined slaughtered more than 400 innocent Israelis. And that was after the Oslo accords of 1993, where he famously shook hands with Yitzhak Rabin.
Take away the campaign of almost nonstop murder and mayhem, and what’s left is still a thoroughly corrupt and contemptible thug. Arafat held sham elections in 1996 and he has continually skimmed off the top of the hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid given to the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Yet Arafat is still recognized by the international community as the “chairman” of the PA. But he is preparing to partner with Hamas precisely so he can maintain that status.
Israel has effectively marginalized Arafat by confining him to his Ramallah compound, preventing him from either showing strength or becoming a “martyr.” As each day passes, Arafat is an increasingly sad and pathetic figure in the eyes of most Palestinians. He is desperate, and it shows.
Last week, masked al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade gunmen burned an American flag from what appears in an AP photo to be a rooftop in front of thousands of cheering Palestinians in the West Bank town of Jenin. If Arafat could have been there, he almost certainly would have been leading the crowd in a chant of “Jihad! Jihad!”
When questioned at a daily press briefing about the possible Arafat-Hamas alliance, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli would not directly comment but did say, “Our view is that, far from being welcomed into any partnership or cooperation, Hamas should be ostracized and disempowered as an organization.”
Why isn’t the same thing said about Arafat himself?
Joel Mowbray (email@example.com) is author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America’s Security.