Fighting terror at the summit Sharm el Sheik: Meeting to isolate Hamas and other subverters of peace.

March 12, 1996

A TRIBUTE TO THE influence of a few terrorists is the summit meeting on ways to contain them that President Clinton and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt will host tomorrow. It will be at the remote Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheik, where Egyptian artillery once -- briefly -- barred shipping from Israel.

Success will be measured by the extent and rank of Arab attendance as much as by measures that may be adopted. The more Arab leaders who come forth to state their interest in peace, the more who sign up to take steps, the more Hamas and other organizations of terror will be isolated in the Arab world.

So they deserve to be. While the violence they advocate is against Israel, the subversion they represent and threat they pose are to President Yasser Arafat of Palestine, to President Mubarak and to most Arab and Islamic regimes.

Support for terrorist groups from gulf oil states has had the character of protection money. One sign of success for the summit would be for the gulf states to switch their support of cultural and social institutions in the slums of Gaza and the West Bank from Hamas to Mr. Arafat's Palestine Authority. Syria and Iran have supported the terrorists. Along with Lebanon and Libya, they will not be at the conference. But the regimes that do show up should find a way to send a message to the absentees that supporting terror is no longer in their interest.

The conference should press the PLO to amend its charter to remove all threats to Israel and its legitimacy, without a quid pro quo. And it should convince Israel that responding to terrorism by punishing Palestinians who did not commit it only helps Hamas' terrorist wing.

The Clinton administration deserves credit for putting together this summit so rapidly. Any success will help both Mr. Arafat and Prime Minister Shimon Peres persuade their peoples that their peace effort has world support. It also buttresses the courageous actions of King Hussein of Jordan to make peace with Israel and support the PLO regime in Palestine.

Rarely has a diplomatic meeting of this magnitude been organized with such speed or with such a compelling need for a success that is not assured beforehand.

Pub Date: 3/12/96

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