I seem to recall that back in December, Arafat went on TV and condemned violence against civilians, using the word “terrorism” for the first time. There followed a three-week period of relative “calm”, during which hardly any Israelis were killed (but falling short of the week of “absolute quiet” that Sharon was insisting on at the time).
It seems Arafat used his influence, and he was listened to.
However, during this period Israel continued to kill Palestinians, including targetted killings. So the period of relative calm ended, and violence against Israeli civilians resumed. If anything, it was more vicious than before.
Sharon has been quoted as saying, [in paraphrase] “We dropped our demand for a week of quiet, and we were paid with more suicide bombers. Every time we made a concession, we were paid with violence.”
Well, couldn’t an analogous argument be made on Arafat’s side? He did what he was supposed to do, and it worked, and Sharon paid the Palestinians with more violence.
So, what good would it do for Arafat to do what Bush and Powell want, and unequivocally condemn terrorism (again)? What makes them think the Palestinian militants would obey him again, considering what happened the first time?
This war has been a tragicomedy of errors and lost opportunities, on both sides.
The only hope I see for ending this is for the international peace activists to teach sit-in tactics to the Palestinians. If and when the war ends, we can thank Adam Shapiro and Rabbis for Human Rights.