President Bush set an ambush of his own for the terrorists in the Middle East. The administration noticed a connection between Bush's pre-announced speech schedule and fresh attacks against Israel.
Every time the White House would announce President Bush was prepared to outline his "vision" for peace in the Middle East, Arafat's al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade launched another strike against Israeli civilians.
The White House tested the theory several times last week. Announcing a major Middle East policy speech in two days meant a major terror strike against Israel in one day. Bush grew more grave, snapping on one occasion when asked about the much-anticipated speech, "I'll give it when I give it."
So the White House clammed up, and the terror subsided for a couple of days. Bush sprang the speech without warning, making his announcement at roughly 11 p.m. Israel time, and catching the terrorists by surprise.
Bush to Arafat: "Bye"
The Bush speech was carefully guarded for another reason. There are already rumors of a split in the Cabinet over the best course of action.
On one side, Secretary of State Colin Powell's faction, who prefer the immediate recognition of a provisional Palestinian state with its capital at Jerusalem and Arafat at the helm.
On the other, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney. They favor allowing Israel to seek a "solution," adding Arafat and the Palestinian Authority to the terrorist list.
President Bush's speech struck a note of balance between the two extremes. Flanked by members of each camp, Bush fell short of adding Arafat to the terrorist list, but he didn't quite satisfy the immediate statehood camp, either.
Although President Bush essentially gave Arafat the boot, he did so in terms so subtle that Arafat's offical first reaction to the speech was to praise it as a "serious effort to push the peace process forward" before it sunk in that it was an effort that didn't include him.
Bush said "reform must be more than cosmetic changes or a veiled attempt to preserve the status quo" if the Palestinians are to fulfill their aspirations for a state alongside Israel.
He said that Palestinians should hold free elections by end of the year for a legislature with normal authority. Before the U.S. would endorse Palestinian statehood, he said, there also must be a constitution in place.
In a single paragraph, Bush wrote off both Arafat and the Palestinian Authority – without ever mentioning them by name – effectively ending Arafat's four decade run as chief Middle East rabble rouser.
"When the Palestinian people have new leaders, new institutions and new security arrangements with their neighbors, the United States of America will support the creation of a Palestinian state, whose borders and certain aspects of its sovereignty will be provisional until resolved as part of a final settlement in the Middle East," Bush said.
Once the PA realized what Bush was saying, Saeb Erekat issued a statement to the effect that "'President' Arafat was elected by the Palestinian people in a direct election ... and President Bush must respect the choice of the Palestinian people."
Starting with the last first, Arafat was elected once – in 1996. As new elections approached, Arafat suspended them. Arafat saw his numbers slumping. The average Palestinian has actually witnessed a decline in both the standard of living and quality of life since Oslo, and many Palestinians were beginning to hold Arafat responsible.
Until Sharon visited the Temple Mount on Yom Kippur 2000. Although he visited as a private citizen, at 5 a.m., with prior permission granted by the Muslim Waqf, the PA called it a "provocation" and began a long-planned "spontaneous" uprising.
Blame for the miserable living conditions shifted away from Arafat and back onto Israel's shoulders – Arafat's numbers started going up, and Arafat and his cronies were able to avoid standing for election in 2000 and thereafter.
Bush is saying, in effect, that he will respect the choice of the Palestinian people, as soon as we have some idea what it is. Not what it was in 1996.
It's a brilliant stroke, with only one glaring flaw: If Arafat survives Israel's re-occupation as part of its new land-for-peace policy, and if the Palestinians hold new elections, what if Arafat wins?
For that reason, if no other, it is unlikely Arafat will survive the summer.Hal Lindsey is the best-selling author of 20 books, including "Late Great Planet Earth." He writes this weekly column exclusively for WorldNetDaily and maintains a website where he provides up-to-the-minute analysis of today's world events in the light of ancient prophecies.
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