Published in The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle
As an Israeli, I felt displeasure and disappointment with some aspects of President’s Clinton trip to the Middle East.
Just one week after the terrorist attack in Tel Aviv that killed 21 Israelis and wounded more than 46 , Mr. Clinton chose to meet “ ex” terrorist Mr. Arafat in Cairo, and also visit Syria , which is a nation that is on the U.S. list of countries that sponsor terrorism.
After the meeting with Arafat, President Clinton told reporters that Arafat promised him to fight terrorism in the region. Mr. Clinton was so impressed by such a promise from the notorious terrorist in recent times, that he promised Arafat more financial aid from the U.S.
However, while Arafat states these sweet promises, his actions in Gaza show that Clinton’s trust in him is misplaced. Arafat one year ago promised to the Israelis and the U.S. to clamp down on terrorism but he never delivered on the promise.
According to Israeli intelligence and PLO security officials, thousands of Hama terrorists openly train in Gaza, many in camps in the citrus groves in central Gaza. One newspaper report quoted one senior Israeli intelligence official as saying that there are at least 3,000 Hamas terrorists ready to carry out murders and kidnapping. Furthermore, Hamas has acquired thousands of automatic weapons, grenades, and plastic explosive. Israeli officials told a reporter that not one weapon has ever been confiscated. Moreover, Hamas terrorists roam Gaza’s streets without intervention from the 8,000-man Palestinian’ police” force. The training is carried out so openly that, last month, Israeli television aired films of Hama terrorists groups preparing to carry out operations in Israel.
The two terrorists who opened fire on civilians in downtown Jerusalem three weeks ago, killing two and wounding 13, were also dispatched from Gaza, and one of their machine guns from the Palestinian police.
After every attack, Arafat ordered the arrest of Hamas suspected terrorists. They usually were released several days later because the Palestinian police said there was no evidence against them. In Gaza, Palestinian police last week released the last of about 200 Hamas suspects, rounded up after the Waxman kidnapping. If Mr. Arafat really wants to fight terrorism in Gaza, he will have to confiscate the weapons in the hands of Hamas, shut down the terrorist training camp and arrest and prosecute them. Arafat never gave the order, and President Clinton never pushed him to.
President Clinton also decided to visit Assad in Syria , stating before he left the U.S. that he would talk with the Syrian leader about the importance of combating terrorism. However, after the visit with Assad last Thursday , the public was informed that American officials had not pressed Assad directly about his government ‘s role in providing a haven to terrorist groups.
President Clinton said in his Jerusalem news conference that Assad had privately criticized the bombing in Tel Aviv by Hamas. He also told the Israeli public that Assad’s words in private should be reassuring to the people of Israel and should encourage more dialogue and a greater willingness to pursue the peace process.
As an Israeli, I am not reassured and not encouraged . First, Assad could not even force himself out of respect to Mr. Clinton’s visit , in their mutual press conference , to publicly condemn the bombing. Second, Assad’s actions are further testimony to his true feelings and intentions.
The Syrian state run radio, with the permission, of course, of the Assad regime, broadcasted ecstatic praise of the Tel Aviv massacre. Furthermore, for decades Syria has been a haven and a training ground fro about a dozen terrorist groups. Without Assad, Mideast terrorism could not have flourished and that is why Syria is on the U.S. list of terrorist nations.
The Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the liberation of Palestine with its leader Ahmed
Jabril, as well as many other notorious terrorist groups, have offices in Damascus. Jabril is rumored to have planned the destruction of Pan Am 103.
President Clinton said that he decided to visit Syria to help the peace process. I just wonder what does “peace” mean without security, and what message does the leader of the free world give to terrorists when he is not forcing responsibility and accountability upon the likes of Arafat and Assad.