Middle East Reality Check; before Negotiations, Suicide Bombers Must Be silenced.(OPED)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), June 12, 2002 | Go to article overview

Middle East Reality Check; before Negotiations, Suicide Bombers Must Be silenced.(OPED)


Byline: Helle Dale, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

For all the talk of inevitable momentum toward a Palestinian state, President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon this week poured cold water on an accelerated timetable. In doing so, they introduced a much-needed reality check into the proceedings. Much as everybody wants the Middle East to calm down and cool off, premature politicking will only make matters worse. The Israeli prime minister is adamant that no peace negations can take place while the killings of Israeli civilians continue, and he found solid support for that position in Washington this week. Sources say Mr. Sharon has been burnt too often trying to rely of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to contain the terrorist attacks and will not allow himself to be taken advantage of again.

Over the weekend, at Camp David, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt tried his best to convince the American president otherwise. Egypt wants to emerge as the regional peacemaker, taking over the role coveted by Saudi Arabia, and Mr. Mubarak was arguing strongly for a regional peace conference this summer - and for a timetable for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Mr. Bush yesterday poured cold water on the idea. "The conditions aren't there yet," Mr. Bush said after his meeting with Mr. Sharon in the Oval Office, stating what ought to be obvious. "That's because no one has confidence in the emerging Palestinian government."

It's absolutely true. While Mr. Arafat huddles in his Ramallah compound with Israeli shells flying around his ears, Arab leaders, including Mr. Murabak himself, speak disparagingly of his command of the situation. Israel and the United States long since made it clear that Mr. Arafat is not worth anything as a negotiating partner, and even Palestinians, according to news reports, feel that his time has past.

Meanwhile Mr. Sharon reminded the world on Sunday, in an op-ed article in the New York Times, that planning a peace conference before the suicide bombings have stopped makes no sense for Israel - particularly in light of the fact that much of the financing of the campaign has been traced to Mr. Arafat's personal financial adviser, Fuad Shubaki. The current leadership of the Palestinian Authority is clearly involved.

"First Israel must defeat terrorism," Mr. Sharon wrote about the way forward. "It cannot negotiate under fire. . . . This elementary commitment to permanently renouncing violence in the resolution of political differences has unfortunately not been kept by the present Palestinian leadership.

"Secondly, when Israel and the Palestinians eventually re-engage in negotiations, diplomacy must be based on realism. …

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