Editor's Desk

Reaching Out to Arafat

Candy and Zbig would like nothing more.

By 4.1.02

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After two more suicide bombings on Sunday, the situation in Israel couldn't be clearer. Even Secretary of State Colin Powell is on board. "We have spoken out clearly and do so again now for Chairman Arafat to act against those responsible for these acts, and to make clear to the Palestinian people that terror and violence must halt now."

And though he added that "we deplore the killing and wounding of innocent Palestinians there," he also recognized Israeli's right to defend itself when he noted, "we understand the Israeli government need to respond to these acts of terror." Never has the argument the U.S. has used to justify its war on terrorism been more in harmony with Israel's justification for its war against terror. For those who since 9/11 were insisting that what was good for the American goose would not be good for the Israeli gander, that's an alarming development.

Listen to what some of them had to say on the weekend talk shows. Candy Crowley sat in for Wolf Blitzer on CNN Late Edition yesterday. Clearly she sounded troubled. So did former Carter National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. He said it was Israeli's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon strategy to make it appear that "the American struggle against global terrorism should be synonymous with Israel's struggle against Mr. Arafat and the Palestinians."

Which led Crowley to ask former Reagan National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, not quite as articulately as Blitzer might have: "[I]sn't that sort of a problem for the Bush administration, having said 'If you support a terrorist, if you house a terrorist, you are a terrorist'? So Israel comes out and says, 'Well, this man's a terrorist.' Hasn't the Bush administration put itself in a kind of rhetorical box that will not let them reach out to Yasser Arafat?"

Reach out to Yasser Arafat?! Does this woman even watch the news on her own network? To be fair, it might be that she's influenced by what she hears from her guests. McFarlane, for instance, condemned Sharon as strongly as he did Arafat. "But sides are afflicted with awful leadership," he said. He added: "I don't believe we're going to be able to get out of this, until we see a change of leadership on both sides." It wouldn't dawn on this wise man that Sharon is in power precisely because his predecessor, Ehud Barak, had been prepared to give Arafat everything the likes of Brzezinski, McFarlane, and Bill Clinton wanted -- only to see Arafat reject his offer outright and unleash new terror against a state he will never recognize until it's pushed into the Mediterranean. And even then he'll unleash new demands that the Mediterranean be drained until all traces of Jewishness are removed from its sea bottom.

Most people can now see Arafat as he wants and deserves to be seen. TV trots out the exceptions. Unaware of any history beyond what was said just before the last commercial break, Crowley posed this question: "Mr. Brzezinski, what went wrong here? How did this suddenly explode in a way that we haven't seen for a couple of decades?"

Brzezinski, for his part, thinks of Arafat as a Nobel Prize winner for supporting the Oslo peace process that Sharon has opposed for years. In his words, "[D]on't forget Rabin and Arafat both got the Nobel Peace Prize. And Mr. Rabin was assassinated, in the context of an atmosphere of hate and hostility that was stimulated in Israel by Mr. Sharon, Mr. Netanyahu and others." Kind you reminds you of the knee-jerk liberals who will forever blame the assassination of JFK on right-wing Texans.

Nonetheless, Brzezinski knows what has to be done just as he knows the Bush administration is not doing it. "We need," he later said, "...an American initiative for peace that is comprehensive, articulate, specific, and which we're prepared to back with our political resources and, if necessary, guarantee if the parties agree, with our own forces on the ground, so that peace and accommodation eventually between the Israelis and the Palestinians can be enforced. Nothing less than that will do." You've got to like his ability to string words like comprehensive, articulate, and specific together.

He also warned we have no choice: "Our ability to conduct the war against terrorism is going to be in jeopardy as a consequence of this. America will be more a target of hatred. And if things get really bad in the Middle East, we could even face an oil embargo. So the stakes here are enormous, and the failure of leadership could be very costly."

That might be understood to mean: We have to appease terrorists to fight terrorists. Standing our ground will make us weaker. It could even bring about a revival of OPEC. What next, a hostage situation in Iran like the one that Brzezinski resolved so deftly?

But that's not what Candy Crowley had in mind. She responded to Brzezinski's remark with this: "I think in very undiplomatic terms, if I can translate what I've just heard, that is that the Bush administration thus far, you believe, has blown it. Is that fair, unfair?" Maybe if they reach out anew to Arafat he'll tell them it was fair.

By the way, it would be unfair to leave the impression that Ms. Crowley is the only bubblehead in CNN's employ. The network State Department correspondent, Andrea Koppel, was a guest last Saturday on Capital Gang. Her anti-Sharonness was stunning. To cite just one priceless example:

"What Ariel Sharon is doing by keeping his troops in Ramallah, by terrorizing Yassir Arafat's Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people, is to essentially shake up a hornet's nest. There are three million Palestinian people who have nothing more to do than to strap bombs around their bodies ..."

You get the picture. Sharon is a terrorist, just like John Ashcroft to others in the media is Osama bin Laden. And whatever Palestinians do in response is all a reaction to Israeli activity, not a product of the leadership Arafat has provided.

But as Ted Koppel's daughter, Andrea Koppel was entitled to speak with unimpeachable insight and authority.

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About the Author
Wlady Pleszczynski is editorial director of The American Spectator and the editor of AmSpec Online.