The Corner

Arafat and Us

Today, the president of the United States spoke under a big, smiling picture of Yasser Arafat. I just want to say a quick word about this — there are many things to say, but here is one:

An American ambassador, Cleo Noel, was killed on direct orders from Arafat. That was in Khartoum, in 1973. The late Vernon Walters once told me that he personally listened to the intercepts. Walters was a top official in the CIA at the time.

I once had an opportunity to ask a former director of the Mossad, Efraim Halevy, “Why doesn’t my country hold it against Arafat that he had our ambassador murdered?” (During the eight years of Clinton, Arafat was the most frequent foreign visitor to the White House.) Halevy said, “I don’t know.”

There are many things you have to do in this tricky, wicked world, to get by. Diplomacy and politics require a lot of nose-holding, in addition to hand-holding. But it seems to me an American president ought to be able to avoid speaking under a big, adulatory picture of Arafat — murderer of Ambassador Cleo Noel and many, many others.

P.S. Jimmy Carter was a close friend of Arafat’s. He ghostwrote speeches for him and ran international errands for him. Later, he laid flowers at Arafat’s grave. Obama has not done that, to my knowledge. But he is the president most like Carter, I think. Both he and Carter have won the Nobel Peace Prize. So did Arafat (in concert with two Israeli statesmen, it must be said).

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