Arafat is not a man of peace

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Is it any wonder why so many U.S. Jewish groups that applauded the signing of the Oslo peace accords exactly four years ago are now shaking their heads in disgust?

Yasser Arafat has proven over and over that he is not to be trusted as an honest negotiating partner. This newspaper, like so many mainstream Jewish organizations, continually gave him the benefit of the doubt.

Despite his reputation as a longtime terrorist leader, we wanted to believe he had become pragmatic, that he was anxious to help his downtrodden people begin a new life of peace and possible prosperity.

Yet he never changed the Palestinian charter that calls for the destruction of Israel. He continued to spout about holy war against Israel in the Palestinian press he controls. He demanded that Israel give him more land but he never acquiesced to Israel's plea for better security at its borders.

While Arafat may not be directly responsible for the many terrorist attacks in the last four years, he has done little to prevent them. He has allowed Hamas to operate freely in the Palestinian enclave and even went so far as to embrace Hamas leaders at a rally late last month.

The message Arafat is sending back to his flock is not one of peace but of war. Under that climate, he has failed to dissuade terrorists from attacking Israel.

Arafat's actions have only intensified the reluctance of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to continue on the road to peace with him.

Is peace dead? We hope not.

But it will only get back on track if the United States can convince Arafat to take some serious steps against the terrorists in his midst. Arafat, however, may not have the political will or inclination to do that. If so, the peace process may falter until a new and more trustworthy negotiator appears on behalf of the Palestinian people.