Arafat shows his true stripes &mdash again

Remember when so many of us called Yasser Arafat a moderate?

Remember the delight watching Arafat and former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shake hands on the White House lawn?

Remember those Jews who at the time warned everyone that Arafat was a terrorist and couldn’t be trusted?

Remember how we ignored these warnings?

Well most of us have been heeding those warnings for a few years now, after hanging on by our fingernails to the hope that Arafat would eventually turn pragmatic and reach a peace agreement. And for those holdouts, all they need do is look at this week’s headlines.

Arafat is now suggesting a new leadership arrangement with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, two of the largest terrorist groups in the Mideast who have been responsible for the slaughter of innocent Israelis, including women and children.

So what should we think about the many apologies Arafat has issued each time a bus of Israeli civilians was blown up by a suicide bomber? There is no way he can be regretful and at the same time offer Hamas and Islamic Jihad a space in his bed.

His offer to join with Hamas and Islamic Jihad means there is no Palestinian group to negotiate with that doesn’t have blood on its hands.

Of course, some will say that Arafat is only joining the militants because he saw the handwriting on the wall. He is fast losing his following among Palestinians while the militant groups are becoming more popular each day. Such a merger was inevitable or the Palestinian Authority would become a meaningless relic.

Plus, Arafat is old and sickly and might not be around too much longer.

However, he did have another alternative. Arafat could have given his string of failed prime ministers some real power. He could have let them run the security forces and manage the corrupt financial structure of the Palestinian Authority. He had good reason to do that.

Under the “road map” peace plan the United States delivered to the Mideast, it was incumbent on the Palestinian Authority to round up militant groups and put their members behind bars. Israel was right in saying there would be no peace negotiations until that happened. Clearly, that path was never considered seriously by Arafat, and his prime ministers weren’t even given the authority to try.

What Arafat may have effectively done this week was to make himself fair game for the Israeli military. Now that there are no illusions about where he stands, some say his name can be added to the list of militants Israel is targeting for elimination.

No matter what, not until the old guard of violent militants is gone will there be any real chance of peace talks.