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Nobel Booby Prize

Arafat Makes the Peace Prize Ironic and Meaningless

By David J. Andorsky

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.

Yet he has persevered, sticking to his course, never suspending talks for more than a few days, even in the face of the bloodiest attacks against Israelis. In fact, Rabin announced on Monday that the peace talks would be resumed and that the blockade of Gaza would be lifted.

The Israelis would have been justified in not resuming talks for several weeks, in order to convince Arafat of the seriousness of their demands. But Rabin, and a large number of Israeli Parliament members, are far too committed to peace to run the risk of losing the momentum that peace demands. It is unfortunate that Arafat does not exhibit the same commitment to peace.

Even less excusable than Arafat's failure to control Hamas is his penchant for making petty public statements that glorify himself and discredit Rabin.

Several months ago, for example, Arafat made a big fuss about his desire to visit Jerusalem, even though the act would only serve to weaken Rabin's popular support without producing any tangible gains for the Palestininans.

He even explicitly called for a holy war to recapture Jerusalem, probably one of the most asinine, irresponsible things he has ever said or done. These statements only serve to enhance Arafat's macho, third-world guerrilla persona. Such immature posturing has no place in the peace process.

When the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to several individuals, it is generally assumed that each recipient did his or her share to make peace a reality.

However, the decision of this year's Nobel Committee cheapens the value of the prize for both past and future recipients.

It was given to a man who has, in the past, called for the destruction of Israel, who is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Israeli men, women, and children, and who by his current actions demonstrates neither sincere repentance for these past evils for a commitment to future peace.

It is comforting to see that one Nobel Committee member did resign in protest over the decision. At least someone connected with the prize has not lost a sense of moral direction.

And one hopes that Arafat will not view the prize as a pet on the back for his good work.

Complacency on his part will permanently derail the peace talks, since Rabin, Peres and the Israeli people will eventually lose the capacity to continue in the face of unchecked Palestinian terror.

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