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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, December 4, 2001

Mideast horror leaves few options for Arafat

It appears that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat may have played his game of advance and retreat one time too many.

The attacks launched by Israel yesterday on Palestinian facilities were far beyond the usual tit-for-tat responses to attacks on Israeli sites.

They were, in the words of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the first strikes in a "war on terrorism."

In war, there are no winners. But there is one victor and one vanquished. And that appears, for the moment, to be where this Middle East dispute is headed.

Many have commented that the road back toward peace must go through Arafat.

That's true, if he indeed has the power or the will to stop the suicide bombings and other attacks on Israel and its citizens.

It is unclear, however, that he does.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Yossi Klein Halevi, senior correspondent for the Jerusalem Report, made an interesting observation.

The speculation about whether Arafat has the power to control Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups is almost beside the point, he said.

If he can control the terrorists but chooses not to, he is an accomplice. If he cannot control the terrorists, he is hopeless as a partner to peace.

The only way out of a terrible, bloody war is for Arafat to demonstrate to Israel and to the world that he is capable of stopping the terrorism — or publicly and permanently get out of the way.

He has said the right things in the past and did so again in response to the latest terror bombings. Arafat declared a state of emergency in all Palestinian-administered territories and warned that all groups violating his cease-fire orders would be treated as outlaws.

Strong words. But they will be useless unless followed by action.