Mr Prime Minister, you don't have to walk with Arafat

By Stan Goodenough
Editor, Middle East Intelligence Digest,
a publication of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

Ha'aretz analyst Danny Rubinstein wrote (on August 26) that "those who know Yasser Arafat are saying that in the weeks which have passed since the new government was established in Israel, he has been dealing almost compulsively with one issue: how he can meet Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as quickly as possible."

Ever since outgoing Prime Minister Shimon Peres predicted, curse-like, that his newly elected successor would "also walk with Arafat", the pressure has been building by the day on Netanyahu to meet with the chairman of the PLO.

It has come from every quarter: from the governments of Hosni Mubarak, Jacques Chirac and Bill Clinton; from the powerful international media, from President Ezer Weizmann and the Labour, Meretz and Arab parties, and from among Netanyahu's own ranks including, most recently, Foreign Minister David Levy. The weight on the Israeli leader'2s shoulders must be almost unendurable, as it seems all the world is insisting that this meeting take place.

But not all the world is. Along with the nearly 60 % of Israeli Jews who voted Netanyahu into power, there are many millions of Christians who are earnestly praying that such a meeting will never occur. To us, the very thought of Netanyahu being in the same room with Yasser Arafat - let alone shaking his blood-soaked hand - is loathsome in the extreme.

Arafat knows well what such a meeting would signify, hence his near frantic efforts to bring it about: What he and all these others are trying so desperately to do is get the Prime Minister to betray the platform on which he was elected.

Netanyahu came to power rejecting outright the creation, in fact, the very concept, of a Palestinian state. He is prepared to let the Israel-PLO negotiations proceed, and to grant the Palestinian Arabs absolute freedom to run their daily lives. But he made it clear from the start that there would be no state, and no state president: Under Netanyahu's leadership, Israel would no longer accord Arafat the recognition and honour due a head of state.

For that is exactly what a meeting between Netanyahu and Arafat would do: Heads of state meet heads of state. Other ministers meet lesser officials.

By permitting his advisors and foreign minister to meet with Arafat, Netanyahu has acceded to the near-universal demand that the PLO leader be recognised as representing the Palestinian Arabs.

But he is under no obligation whatsoever to "walk with Arafat", or even to talk with him on the phone. Voted leader of the Palestinian Arabs (in undemocratic elections) Arafat may be, but as infuriating as it is for many to hear, those he leads have no national history in, and no national rights to, the land to which they lay claim. (They have human rights, and individuals have ownership rights, but they have no national rights.) Simply because nearly all mankind has been led to believe otherwise does not make it so.

The Gentile world might have found it easy to forgive Yasser Arafat for his crimes against (mostly Jewish) humanity; such forgiveness comes cheap to those who have not been victims. But Netanyahu has neither the commission nor, I sense, the inclination, to impart that forgiveness to the most ruthless individual, unrepentant killer of his people since PLO hero Adolf Hitler.

There is no reason on earth, moral or political, why the democratically elected Prime Minister of the Jewish state should meet with this man.

Stan Goodenough
Middle East Intelligence Digest
PO Box 1192
Jerusalem 91010
ISRAEL
Tel: ..972.2.631418
Fax: ..972.2.631062

email: meid@icej.org.il

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