The campaign promise George Bush has broken most directly is the one he broke first.
In September 1988, Bush vowed: `As for the PLO, I will insist that unless the PLO . . . abandons terrorism and changes its covenant calling for Israel's destruction, the United States will not recognize or have any discussions with that organization. I will insist . . . because it is the right thing to do.'
The PLO never met those conditions. It refuses to change its covenant, which declares Israel's creation `null and void' and calls for an `armed struggle' to abolish it. And Chairman Yasser Arafat's grudging renunciation of terrorism in December 1988 has not stopped numerous terrorist infiltrations across Israel's border.
All the same, the Bush-Baker team's first foreign-policy step was to get the U.S. `dialogue' with the PLO started. The State Department has more than once cautioned Arafat and his deputy, Abu Iyad, that a resumption of PLO terrorism would mean an end to the dialogue. But it has never made good that warning--not even after State's own report to Congress last March conceded that at least nine terrorist attacks against Israel since December 1988 `involved constituent groups of the PLO.'
One such group--Abu Abbas' Palestine National Front--mounted what was intended to be a spectacularly bloody massacre on May 30, when six armed speedboats made for Israel's crowded Mediterranean beaches. They were intercepted, fortunately, in the nick of time.
The Bush-Baker dialogue, we have argued before, is worse than dishonest, it is dangerous. By greeting each new act of terrorism with an unfulfilled threat to end the dialogue, the Americans merely signal that further attacks will be winked at, too. The result is a climate more, not less, hospitable to terrorism.
Following last week's near-atrocity--two years in the planning, Abu Abbas said--the State Department is making threats again: The PLO must condemn the Abu Abbas raid and expel those responsible or the dialogue will be halted. But Arafat and Abu Iyad no longer worry about State's idle warnings. `We are not responsible, as the PLO, for this operation,' Arafat said, declining to so much as criticize Abu Abbas, let alone expel him from the PLO.
Americans know Abu Abbas as the evil mastermind behind the Achille Lauro hijacking, in which the elderly Leon Kling-hoffer was shot dead in his wheelchair and thrown over the side of a cruise ship. (`Maybe he was trying to swim for it,' Abu Abbas cracked.) But to Arafat & Co., Abu Abbas is a comrade in arms, an honored leader of the Palestine National Council (the PLO's `parliament'), and a member of its executive committee. Why would they turn against him? He, like they, is in the terrorism trade.
Unchastened, Abu Abbas threatened last week: `This operation is the beginning.' Unlike Bush and Baker, he intends to keep his promise.