IN MILITARY TERMS, Palestinian terrorists are losing badly in the current Israeli operation to destroy the terrorist infrastructure in the West Bank. Palestinian militants, far from welcoming martyrdom, as the American press insists must be the result of the Israeli offensive, are instead surrendering in droves to Israeli fighters. In the last couple of days, hundreds have surrendered in the West Bank town of Nablus and in the refugee camp of Jenin alone. This can't help but put a dent in the terrorists' ability to carry out future attacks on Israeli civilians.
Unfortunately, at the same time, the Palestinian leadership may be winning a great political victory, courtesy of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. Palestinian leaders are hailing as a great triumph Powell's decision yesterday to drop all conditions for meeting with Yasser Arafat--three weeks after Vice President Cheney had refused to meet with Arafat unless he agreed to move against terrorism. Palestinian leaders around Arafat are crowing over the defeat they have thereby handed to the Israeli government's efforts. Arafat advisers insist that the very fact that Arafat will shortly be meeting with "the foreign minister of the most powerful nation in the world" is proof that Arafat is winning the war, even as Israel wins the battles.
Americans should find all this deeply disturbing. Is it the Bush Administration's policy to hand Yasser Arafat a victory at Israel's expense, even as Israeli fighters die trying to bring security to a people attacked by terrorism?
This is hardly the way to carry out the Bush Doctrine. Nor is it sound policy toward the Middle East. As Fouad Ajami in today's Wall Street Journal ("Don't Let Arafat Distract Us," p.A18) writes: "We do the Arabs no favor if we pick up the false trail of Arafat. . . . In vast swaths of the Arab world, people know the truth of their condition but cannot utter it. Terror silences them . . . [and they] are eager for their world to be done with the furies of Islamism." As such, we shouldn't "hold our own war hostage to Arafat's campaign of terror. . . . [And] we need to reiterate to them that the truth of this campaign against terror holds in Netanya and Kabul, and that the way out of political ruin is an Arab break, once and for all, with the false consolations of terror."
An "Arab break" from terror should be the goal of Secretary Powell's trip, not pressuring Israel to compromise with terror.
--William Kristol & Robert Kagan