Sharon Wants Arafat To Be Treated Like A Terrorist

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - The international community should treat Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat like the head of a terrorist organization rather than a head of state, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon charged shortly before he met with President Bush and other top officials in Washington on Tuesday.

Sharon, who is making his second visit to the White House since taking office four months ago, plans to use the visit to highlight the threat of terrorism to the international community, a source close to the prime minister was quoted as saying.

On this basis, he plans to stand his ground that Israel will not proceed with the implementation of the recommendations aimed at moving negotiations ahead until there is a complete cessation of Palestinian violence.

Amid continued violence on the ground, there is some concern in Israel that the administration's supporting for calm as a prerequisite for moving ahead may be eroding in the interests of salvaging a ceasefire agreement that has yet to take hold.

Sharon wants the U.S. and international community to apply serious pressure on Arafat to stop the violence and make it clear that he will not get any political rewards for merely toning things down for a short period.

"If the world looks at him as a head of a gang of terrorists rather than a head of state, he may understand that violence must end," Sharon told Jewish leaders at a reception in New York on Monday.

Long before Arafat was elevated to chairman of the self-rule Palestinian Authority, he was chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, whose various factions perpetrated numerous acts of terror against Israeli and Western targets after 1965.

International pressure forced Arafat to declare a ceasefire earlier this month after a suicide bomber blew himself up at a Tel Aviv disco, killing 21 young people and wounding scores more.

Israel was understood to have been planning a massive retaliatory attack when Arafat quickly declared that he was willing to accept a ceasefire.

Several days later CIA Chief George Tenet brokered an understanding, but the violence and terrorism has yet to stop.

"If four people were killed last week and one this week, is that a reduction of terror?" Sharon asked. Israel wants a 10-day period of calm before a six-week "cooling off" period even starts.

An end to violence and a "cooling off" period are the first and second phase of a series of recommendations proposed by former Senator George Mitchell's fact-finding commission.

The PA would like to see a blending of the four phases, with the third phase - Israeli concessions including a freeze on settlement construction - beginning now, rather than only after the six weeks of calm, as envisaged by Israel.

Powell is due in the region this week for talks with Sharon, Arafat and the Egyptian and Jordanian leaders.

Israel fears he may declare the beginning of the "cooling-off" period to appease the PA, despite the fact that daily attacks are continuing.

An expert on U.S.-Israeli relations, Yoram Ettinger, said it was hard to say whether there was a shift in Bush's policy regarding Israel, or if statements coming out of Washington were merely a reflection of the traditional tension between the White House and State Department on Middle East and other issues.

The White House has generally tends to be more "pro-Israel," whereas the State Department is often concerned with Arab interests.

Ettinger, a former Israeli government liaison to Congress, said he was concerned to hear Powell suggest that a "100 percent effort" on the PA's part when it comes to countering violence was adequate.

Alluding to Powell's military background, he added that any military man should know that reducing or even completely stopping violence was not a prerequisite for talks. Instead, the complete eradication of terrorist infrastructure, including weapons caches, was what was needed for peace.
Powell said last week that "nothing starts unless the level of violence goes down" - but he did not say it had to stop completely.

Other signs Ettinger said he found troubling included the administration's commitment to the implementation of the Mitchell report, which he said reflected the polices of former President Clinton and an attempt to resurrect the Oslo Accords.

Mitchell, who led the international fact-finding commission into the causes for the outbreak of violence last September, said Monday Arafat should be invited to the White House.

Arafat has not yet received an invitation to meet Bush. The U.S. reiterated its position last week that Arafat would not be hosted at the White House until the violence and terrorism are stopped.