The two Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat, are now looking for a secluded place for a summit meeting. What are they going to talk about? They could reminisce about their meeting on the White House lawn when the unforgettable Oslo Accords were signed in the presence of President Clinton. Or they might recall the ceremony in Oslo where they were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Peres will most likely express his sympathy for the suffering of the Palestinian people, without mentioning that it is Arafat himself who bears the direct responsibility for their suffering these past 11 months. Arafat will most likely launch into a diatribe against Israel's "racist" policies. And then what? This will be their umpteenth meeting, none of which has produced anything of consequence. Whatever promises were made by Arafat have all, without exception, been broken. Agreements to a cease-fire have been followed by fire. Promises to stop acts of terror have been followed by terror.
No need to wait with bated breath for the outcome of this meeting. Negotiating with Arafat has been on a steady decline: from attempting to negotiate a peace agreement, to trying to reach interim arrangements, to getting him to agree to a cessation of the violence he initiated, to having him agree to a cease-fire in a specific locality like the Gilo neighborhood of Jerusalem. And the killing goes on.
For Peres, it seems "hope springs eternal" and negotiations are the name of the game. He seems to feel no remorse for his past mistakes that have brought about the present crisis and continues to insist, despite all evidence to the contrary, that negotiating with Arafat is the only way to end the violence and reach an accommodation with the Palestinians. He surely believes that the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to him and to Arafat was well deserved and is seeking a continuation of what he considers to be past achievements.
It is true that the list of Nobel Peace Prize awards over the years make for a rather spotty record, but without doubt this particular award is probably the most outrageous of them all and is bound to cast a pall on all future such awards. The Nobel Prize jury was probably impressed by the praise heaped on Arafat by his Israeli negotiating partners and by their expressions of belief that this terrorist had forsworn any further use of violence and terror. There is no other explanation for this incongruous award that will surely go down in history as the only one of its kind.
Former foreign minister Abba Eban said that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, but he never posed the question why this is so. Is their leadership accident-prone or are they unduly risk averse? The truth of the matter, that has been staring us in the face for years now, is that Arafat's goals are inconsistent with the existence of the State of Israel. He insists on representing the five million Palestinians in the Palestinian diaspora, most of whom have been deliberately kept in refugee camps for the past 53 years, and he demands for them the "right of return."
That was his position before Oslo, that was his position at Oslo, and that his is position to this day. Therefore what may seem like an opportunity to the Israeli negotiator is no opportunity as far as Arafat is concerned. Peres simply refuses to recognize this and does not want to understand that the only way to get him to abandon the path of violence against Israel is to give in to his demands. And that at this juncture, Israel has no choice but to protect the lives of its citizens and to crush the violence initiated by Arafat.
After Arafat, hopefully, there will be local Palestinian leaders, not the imports from Tunis, who will realize that Arafat has led the Palestinians to disaster, who will have the interests of the local Palestinian population at heart, and who will have realized that just as in the past, violence can only produce continued suffering for the long-suffering Palestinian population. It is only then that an accommodation between Israel and the Palestinians will become possible.
Fortunately, at this time there is one man who, unencumbered by the frustrating experience of years of dealing with Arafat, seems to have no illusions about him and sees him for what he is. It is the President of the United States, George W. Bush.
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