Cease-fire seems too tenuous

Both Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak knew better than to sign the cease-fire agreement they apparently reached Tuesday morning at Sharm el-Sheik in Egypt.

Arafat probably never intended to abide by any agreement. In fact, he didn't even want to go to the summit. He apparently was persuaded to do so for public relations purposes.

Barak couldn't put his signature on an agreement knowing full well that the Palestinians were unlikely to honor it.

So what was left was an oral agreement that allowed President Clinton to return home feeling that he did what little he could in a crisis situation.

Arafat, of course, will say he can't control Palestinian youth. He will say that the anger on the street is so intense that no one can stop it.

And with a wink and a nod, Arafat's militia will close their eyes and give the unruly mobs control of the streets. Some of his militia also will participate and even turn the very weapons that were meant for security purposes against Israeli troops.

Arafat could stop this. He has a large enough militia to put an end to the violence in seconds. But he is ahead in world public opinion polls. He has done an effective job of making Israel look like the aggressor.

Only a few months ago, Arafat appeared intransigent after rejecting Israel's overgenerous offer at the Camp David summit. But this new wave of violence allowed him to shake off the intransigent label and once again take on the mantle of a victim.

The true victims are the families who lose sons and daughters in the melee. The lives are being lost for a political cause that could have been won with negotiations, not violence.

If Arafat really wanted peace, he had a better opportunity that he ever had, or may ever have in his lifetime. He blew it. And people will probably continue dying because of his dishonesty and poor judgment.