Israel has called for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to back his tough speech against violence with strong actions. Mr. Arafat delivered his message in a televised address in Arabic, appealing for Palestinian militants to suspend their armed struggle against Israel, especially suicide bombings.
Acting under international pressure, Mr. Arafat said he had declared illegal, "groups that carry out terrorist activities." He says the Palestinian people are committed to peace and all those who support them should uphold a truce with Israel. He also pledged to hunt down and punish those who had breached a US mediated truce, which has failed to halt more than 14 months of bloodshed, as we hear in this simultaneous translation: "Any violation of this decision will be seen as a trespass of our supreme national interest of our people and our Arab nation, and will be dealt with accordingly. Those who violate this decision will be penalized firmly."
Raanan Gissin, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, says words are not enough. "I must say that I have to be a little skeptical, because Arafat has made these statements before," Gissin said. "He made it on the 27th of September when he accepted a cease-fire. We buried 67 people since then and 500 more wounded. So I want to judge Arafat by his deeds not by his words."
Mr. Gissin says that the task ahead for Mr. Arafat is to win back the confidence of Israelis who have lost faith in him as a peace partner, since the start of the Palestinian uprising more than a year ago. "He needs not to convince CNN, not the international media, not even his own people that he wants peace," he explained. "He needs to convince the one constituency that he lost in the last 14-months. That is the Israeli public."
Mr. Arafat insists it is Mr. Sharon who is waging a war on his people. The Palestinian leader says Palestinians should stop their attacks because they are giving Mr. Sharon an excuse to continue his military offensive against them.
Thursday, Mr. Sharon announced he was cutting all ties with Mr. Arafat, following the killing of 10 Jews in the West Bank by Palestinian militants.