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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

December 06, 2002

Editorial: Mideast mixed signals

Worthwhile editorial wonders who represents the Palestinians and their views.
Who speaks for Palestinians? Yasser Arafat and his moderate-sounding aides, or the terrorists who murdered innocent Israelis this past week in Israel and Kenya? The 56 per cent of Palestinians who shrink from attacks inside Israel or the large minority who still cheer them?

The world needs to know.

Brutal attacks on Israeli voters, holiday-goers and air travellers a few days ago coincided with news reports that Arafat's top deputy Mahmoud Abbas has denounced the two-year Palestinian campaign of violence as a tragic error and a dead end. "We should ... ask ourselves where we are headed," he told Fatah party activists at a closed-door meeting. "What happened in these two years ... is a complete destruction of everything we built."

Yes it is. Some 2,700 people have died, Arafat's credibility has been shattered, his Palestinian Authority all but destroyed, statehood has been put on hold and tens of thousands have sunk into poverty.

A rethinking of Palestinian strategy is overdue. But Arafat himself, not an aide, should have shouted this message from the rooftops. Then fewer ordinary people might still cling to the contemptible fiction that terror is justified.

If Arafat cannot bring himself to challenge this view, publicly and forcefully, he should bow out. To be credible peace partners Palestinian leaders must make themselves heard for peace above the noise of rockets, bombs and guns. They haven't yet.