Once upon a time, a long time ago, the United States broke off talks with the PLO. It may sound like a fairy tale, but it isn?t. Think back to 1990, less than two years after the U.S. had agreed to open formal diplomatic contacts with the Palestinians. On May 30th of that year, armed terrorists from Abu Abbas? Palestine Liberation Front ? a PLO constituent organization - attempted to launch a sea borne assault on Israel?s coastline. The attack was thwarted, but Yasser Arafat stubbornly refused to condemn it. The US State Department pressured and pleaded, but to no avail. Finally, on June 20, 1990, then-President George Bush decided to suspend America?s dialogue with Arafat. All because he refused to condemn a terrorist attack.

Now fast forward back to the present, to the year 2001, when it is clear to everyone that Arafat not only supports terrorism ? he engages in it. Last week, Arafat?s Fatah faction of the PLO claimed responsibility for a shooting attack in Samaria which left an Israeli motorist seriously injured with gunshot wounds to the chest. The week before that, it was reported that two members of Arafat?s Fatah were arrested for planning to carry out suicide attacks against Israelis. Separately, three other terrorists from Arafat?s Force 17 and Fatah were captured on their way to carrying out a shooting attack in northern Jerusalem. Arafat?s Fatah gunmen were responsible for the months of shooting directed from Beit Jalla against the Jerusalem suburb of Gilo and they have been behind many of the mortar attacks against Jewish communities in Gaza. Earlier this month, Israeli troops discovered and destroyed an illicit mortar factory operating behind the offices of Col. Ghazi Jabali, Arafat?s police commander in Gaza.

All this points to Arafat?s clear and unequivocal involvement in acts of terrorism. Both the individuals and the organizations directly under his control are engaged in terror, yet Arafat has done nothing to put an end to their activities. A large number of the more than 250 Israelis murdered in the past 15 months of Palestinian violence were killed by Fatah terrorists on Arafat?s payroll. The victims include 4 American citizens.

Given this record, it is time for the United States to thoroughly reconsider its diplomatic and political relationship with Arafat and the Palestinian Authority (PA). With the Taliban on the run and Osama Bin-Laden in hiding, the U.S. has begun to prepare for the next phase of its global campaign. Yet if the war on terrorism is to retain its moral consistency and principled clarity, then America can no longer ignore Arafat?s continuing involvement in terrorism.

The United States must stop pressuring Arafat and start punishing him by imposing economic and diplomatic sanctions on the PA. President George W. Bush should follow in the footsteps of his father and end America?s dialogue with Arafat forthwith. Additional steps America should take include freezing all PA and PLO funds in American banks, with the proceeds going to help the families of victims of Arafat?s terrorism. The U.S. should also insist that its European allies cease funding Arafat?s corrupt and despotic regime. The money being funneled from Europe helps to prop up Arafat?s empire of terror, thereby enabling him to continue with his acts of violence against the Jewish state. Just as it did in the Cold War, when it established Radio Free Europe, America should now consider opening a ?Radio Free Gaza? to broadcast accurate news and information to Palestinians. Such a step is critical to countering the vicious anti-Israel and anti-American propaganda that is broadcast in Arafat?s official Palestinian media outlets.

By adopting such measures, the United States will be sending a powerful message to the rest of the world that terror in any form will no longer be tolerated. For if someone such as Arafat, who unfortunately enjoys a great deal of international standing and legitimacy, is brought to account for his terrorist activity, it will serve to dispel any doubts about the seriousness of America?s commitment to this crusade against evil.

On September 20, 2001, President Bush rightly stated that, "any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the U.S. as a hostile regime." In the three months that have elapsed since that speech, Arafat has made it clear which side he is on. Now is the time for America to start treating him accordingly.


Originally published in the Jerusalem Post. Posted with permission of the author.

The writer served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Prime Minister?s Office from 1996 to 1999.