One week ago today, The New York. Times reported the kidnapping of Nachshon Waxman, an Israeli soldier, by members of Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group. Right underneath, another article revealed that Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin and PLO leader Yassir Arafat would share the Nobel Peace Prize.
Three days later, the soldier was murdered by his captors during a rescue attempt, and the Nobel Committee officially announced that the 1994 Peace Prize would be given to Arafat, Rabin and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
Never before has the Nobel Peace Prize been so ironic and meaningless, Ironic, because the peace that it celebrates is still fragile and elusive, barely able to withstand the violence and hatred that is mustered against it. And meaningless because Yassir Arafat's hands are covered with the blood of the recently slain Israeli soldier.
I do not mean to imply that Arafat ordred the kindapping he is responsible for controlling terrorist activities in the self-rule areas of Gaza and Jericho. It is his negligence that has allowed Hamas to flourish over the past several months, and the murder of Sergeant Waxman is a direct result of Arafat's irresponsible conduct.
Israel's primary concern in the peace process is security. Israelis worry that a Palestinian self-rule area or state will serve as a platform for launching terrorist attacks against Israeli civilian and military targets.
Rabin assured his people that the peace process would reduce terrorism, and it was on this premise that his government began negotiations with the PLO. Continued negotiations are contingent upon Arafat's ability to control terrorist elements within the self-rule areas.
Eight months after self-rule began, it is clear that the Palestinian authorities have been unwilling to make an effort to stop Hamas. In the face of violence against Israelis, Arafat's response has been at best pathetic, at worst criminal.
The Israelis did not break off peace talks merely because of the Wednesday kidnapping.
The talks were also suspended due to an attack last Tuesday, in which two civilians were killed and thirteen wounded on a Jerusalem street, gunned down with an assault rifle owned by the Palestinian police. In addition, there have been numerous other terrorist attacks carried out in recent months by Palestinian killers from inside the Gaza strip.
Some may argue that it is unreasonable to hold Arafat responsible for things that he cannot control. Yet Arafat has recently demonstrated that he is in fact able to crack down effectively on Hamas.
In response to Israeli demands, the Palestinian police arrested over two hundred members of Hamas on Thursday night. Arafat has the capability to control Hamas, when he makes the effort. All that is missing, then, is his desire to do so.
Why is Arafat so reluctant? Although in the past he has shown no concern for Israeli lives, it is unlikely that Arafat would so effectively thwart the goal of Palestinian independence in order to enjoy the sight of Israel's suffering. It seems his motive is far more political: Arafat does not want to alienate Hamas supporters in the self-rule areas.
On the surface this seems to be a valid reason. Arafat's supporters argue that if he wishes to retain popularity, and hence control, he must not antagonize a significant portion of the Palestinian people.
But that is exactly what Rabin has done ever since the peace accords were signed. His hold on power is tenuous, as the Labor party only controls a few more seats than the right-wing Likud, and in another election he could very well lose. His ruling coalition is fragile as well, barely holding the majority of seats.
In spite of this political situation, Rabin and Peres have proceeded. By tolerating terrorist attacks against Israelis, Rabin surely faces the possibility of being ousted in a vote of no confidence.