Let me reiterate for readers what I have been saying to audiences for almost a year. Yasser Arafat is an empty robe and a waste of skin. He is a terrorist, a murderer and a disingenuous, duplicitous two-faced liar. He does not have the capacity to do what we want him to do (even if he wanted to, which, I submit, he doesn’t).

Yasser cannot control, manage or instruct Hamas, Islamic Jihad nor any other saber-rattling, bomb-throwing, fundamentalist terrorist group. If he tried to move on his terrorist operatives, he would do so at his own peril. In other words, if he really leaned on Hamas et al, he wouldn’t have to worry about Ariel Sharon putting a hit out on him … Hamas would do it.

Is that clear enough?

By the way, Hamas was originally organized specifically to supplant the PLO because they felt Arafat was too accommodating to the Israelis.

Notwithstanding the protestations of diplomats backpedaling over what Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice did or didn’t say, the alleged sentiment is appropriate, and even reasonable.

Recently, Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer was compelled to make a formal apology to senior members of the United States government after revealing to the press off-the-cuff comments made by Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in his meetings with them in Washington. Does anyone really think he made a mistake like this? I don’t think so.

Ben-Eliezer told the newspaper Yedioth Aharonot, “On the subject, Cheney was more extreme than me,” Ben-Eliezer said. Ben-Eliezer also said that when he had discussed Arafat with Rice, she had said that it was a waste of time dealing with him.

Yedioth Aharonot quoted Ben-Eliezer yesterday as saying: “The vice president told me: ‘As far as I am concerned, you can even hang him,'” with regard to Arafat.

A senior, albeit anonymous, U.S. government official denied Rice or Cheney made the remarks attributed to them by Ben-Eliezer. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said, “It’s a fantasy” of the Arafat quote. That’s their story and they are sticking to it.

Come on! As John Stossel would say, “Give me a break!” Does anyone believe the official White House protestations? Anyone? Raise your hands.

The problem with the denials and apologies and circles being drawn on the floor with toes is credibility. Ben-Eliezer claimed Rice told him there was no point in talking to Arafat any longer. Well there isn’t! And, frankly, if she didn’t say it, she should have. Reportedly, similar statements were made by advisers to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Can you believe that? You betcha!

The Israeli defense minister, after apparently having been taken to the woodshed, made personal phone calls of apology to Rice and Cheney, but ended up groveling to aides instead.

A statement by the defense minister said that he had never attributed such remarks to the vice president.

Backpedaling from his earlier comments, Ben-Eliezer said, “I also want to make clear that no White House official told me that it’s a waste of time dealing with Arafat.” Which is diplomat-speak for, “Sure they said what I said they said – and it makes all the sense in the world – but oy vey, did I ever soil the sheets by repeating it out loud for public consumption.”

Meanwhile, G.W. spoke to reporters after meeting with Sharon and said, he “made very clear what he expects of Chairman Arafat, and that is to make a 100 percent effort to end the violence. The Middle East is too important a region not to stay engaged, and we will remain engaged,” a spokesman told reporters.

That’s really only half correct. Bush doesn’t really “expect” Arafat will “make a 100 percent effort to end the violence.” That is the diplomat’s fantasy, but it is not ever going to happen. And Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and, yeah, even Powell know that dog won’t hunt. Sure we will “remain engaged,” but not with Yasser.

Clinton refused to accept the facts in evidence about Arafat because of his counterintuitive dream that Yasser would provide the fiction of a Clinton legacy with peace in the Mideast. The Bush team, I suspect, is way more realistic. They know Arafat is a key component of “the problem” not the solution. For that matter, the Mitchell Plan wasn’t all that different from dreams going back to 1947.

The mutually exclusive component has always been peaceful co-existence and recognition of Israel. Arafat won’t swallow that pill. Stick a fork in him. He’s done. Or, “As far as I am concerned, you can even hang him.”

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