Israeli consul general in S.F. blasts Arafats failure to stop terrorism

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Israel's top official in San Francisco says the Jewish state will "take action" against the fundamentalist Hamas group if Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat does not prevent further terrorism.

Israel's S.F.-based Consul General of the Pacific Northwest, Nimrod Barkan, made the statement in a press conference Monday at the Israeli Consulate on Montgomery Street after four Hamas suicide bombings killed 61 people in Israel during the past two weeks.

"We expect Arafat to exert all efforts to stop acts of terror. He has not done so sufficiently," Barkan said.

"If he does not do that, we will have to take action," he added. "Israel would not stand idly by" while militant Muslim groups like Hamas bomb "women and children."

Monday's attack in Tel Aviv, which killed 14 and wounded 130, was the fourth such bombing in a bloody 10-day period.

Speaking to major Bay Area broadcast and print reporters, Barkan criticized Arafat for failing to rescind sections of the Palestinian National Covenant that call for Israel's destruction, which Arafat promised to do under the 1993 Oslo Accords in exchange for Palestinian autonomy. Now Arafat has said he would do his best to meet that pledge when the Palestinian National Council meets in Gaza this spring to vote on the repeal.

Without specifying, Barkan said Israel would step up security measures on Israeli buses and cities immediately, and that the Israeli government would attempt to ferret out and destroy the Hamas "infrastructure" that allows terrorists to import explosives and train suicide bombers.

Barkan also said U.S. citizens can help Israel combat terrorism. "All Americans can play an important role by indicating to Arafat that he cannot expect the continued support of the international community if he isn't carrying out his promises," he said.

Echoing an unusual campaign that the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council launched last week, Barkan urged Bay Area citizens to fax or write Arafat urging him to fight terrorism.

Despite Barkan's condemnation of Arafat, he said the Israeli-Palestinian peace process should continue, unfettered by extremists on either side.

"It's very simple," he said. "Israel wants peace, Palestinians want peace."

Pointing toward a photo of slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Arafat shaking hands on the White House lawn in 1993, he said, "I have here in my office a picture of the signing [of the Declaration of Principles]. We would like the signing to be implemented."