Israel Report

June 2002         

No Terms of Negotiation

If he can't control terrorism, what's the point of negotiating with him?

By Dov B. Fischer - June 12, 2002
I have been a big-firm business-litigation attorney for nearly a decade. My favorite case matters are those that promptly move towards a negotiated settlement between or among parties who each emerge with something constructive, resulting in a "win-win" outcome. After the parties negotiate their agreement, we attorneys document the settlement and the parties' respective concessions. Invariably, we insert into each settlement agreement a paragraph that seems so obvious, that an attorney omitting it could risk a claim of malpractice:

Warranty of Authority to Execute Agreement. Each person executing this Agreement on behalf of an entity or individual and/or in a specified capacity hereby warrants and represents that he or she has been granted the power and authority to make and enter into the agreements and releases contained herein for said entity or individual in the capacity set forth herein, and that this Agreement will be duly authorized, executed, and delivered by such entity or individual, and at the time of delivery will constitute legal, valid, and binding obligations of such entity or individual and does not and at the time of delivery will not violate any provisions of any law, agreement, or judicial order to which such entity or individual is a party or is subject.

In plain talk, each party to the agreement affirms that he or she has the authority to negotiate the agreement, the authority to offer concessions in return for counter-concessions, and the authority to enforce the concessions and promises he makes. This seems manifestly sensible, even obvious: Why would a party offer concessions and bargain away claimed rights if the adversary cannot deliver counter-concessions he promises?

Which brings us to the Middle East and Yasser Arafat. Most sensible observers of the region who are not driven by a particularly anti-Jewish passion have concluded that Yasser Arafat is a terrorist and never ceased being a terrorist. While speaking peace in English, he preaches terror-suicide-martyrdom in Arabic. From the time he was given the reins of the Palestinian Authority, pursuant to the 1993 Oslo Accords, he has exploited his power to have his schools teach children to hate Jews to death, his summer camps to teach youngsters how to murder, and his mass-communications media to promote suicide-bombing and other gruesome acts of violence. While going through the motions of negotiating peace with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Arafat outfitted and reinforced some dozen separately constituted armed-security forces, and he allowed the rise and proliferation of terrorist squads directed by murderers from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Tanzim, and the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade associated with his own Fatah organization.

The Central Intelligence Agency of the United States guided his fighters through marksmanship and sniper training. The Israelis, under the easily beguiled Barak and Shimon Peres, provided him and the PA with firearms and related lethal weapons. And, while the West and the Labor-Socialist Israeli leadership thought Arafat was using his new weapons and training to create a durable police force that would disrupt and squelch the scourge of Arab terror, the 1994 Nobel Peace Laureate in fact was funding an extraordinary clandestine operation aimed at smuggling into Gaza one of the largest shipments of illegal weapons ever amassed: the 50 tons of rockets, mortars, grenades, rifles, ammunition rounds, and plastic explosives that packed the Karine-A ship bearing a cargo of death loaded in Iran.

As such, most reasonable Mideast observers no longer regard Arafat as a man of peace or even as a guy who can be trusted for minor civility. He promises to lock up murderers, and they soon are spotted back on the streets, released or "escaped" from prison. He promises that six terrorists will be guarded under strict guidelines in a Jericho prison, and we learn that they are holding a series of meetings daily with outsiders, continuing to direct terror operations with the aid of cellular phones they are given, and otherwise living a hotel existence. He promises that, if released from confinement in his Ramallah headquarters, he will utilize his free access to temper the atmosphere of hate and to eradicate terrorism. Instead, as soon as he is empowered to fulfill his word, he invites streams of Western news media into his office to tell them that the Israelis are no different from Nazis. If the way to know when Arafat is lying is by watching for his lips to start moving, he now is perpetually in mendacity mode.

Yet, when the Israelis say they refuse to deal with him again, a refrain is sounded not only from the United Nations, the Arab League, and the European Union, but also from our own Foggy Bottom: "You may not like him. He may be dishonest and even a funder of the heinous. But he is the only elected leader of the Palestinian people, so you must negotiate with him. And you can't blame him for terrorism because things have gotten out of control, and he cannot realistically be expected to control Islamic Jihad and Hamas."

We may leave for another day the question of whether the "Palestinian people" actually are Arabs in Judea and Samaria, Arabs in Jordan, or the Jews of Israel. Too, we may leave for another day the question of why Arabs demand "self-determination" for Arafat's followers, even as the Arabs of Algeria deny self-determination for Berbers, the Arabs of Iraq deny self-determination for Kurds, the Egyptians oppress the Copts, the Iranians repress the Bahais and Baluchis, and the Sudanese Muslims enslave Black Christians. For the focus here is more basic:

Even if Arafat were elected legitimately, even if his "people" deserve a place at a negotiation table, it remains preposterous to expect Israel to negotiate with a guy whose best excuse for being at the table is "Don't blame me for terrorism being incubated within my Authority because I cannot control it." If he is not the instigator but the victim of a structure of terrorism intricately rooted into the soul of Palestinian Arab society and uncontrollable, then there is no point negotiating peace with him. By his proponents' own words, at best he intends well but cannot deliver peace. If Arafat cannot deliver the goods, then Israel cannot reasonably be expected to offer him concessions and abandon preciously guarded rights in return for peace promises and treaties that are destined to fail ab initio because he lacks enforcement authority.

In the end, Arafat finally has maneuvered himself out of the playing field. If he cannot control the terrorism, it is pointless to negotiate with him. And if, in the face of these many months of horrible suicide-bombing indecency, he has continued participating in the ongoing terror infrastructure that he so methodically constructed and nurtured during the eight years since Oslo, then the suffering he has caused must no longer be suffered.

Dov B. Fischer, an attorney and political-affairs commentator, is author of General Sharon's War Against Time Magazine.

©2002 - National Review

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