To those unfamiliar with the term, “Yasser Arafat International Airport” must seem like the punch line to some joke about international terrorism.
Yet it existed in Gaza, briefly, and President Clinton and Hillary Clinton visited there in 1998 to stand next to Arafat and cut the ribbon opening the facility. These were the years when Clinton viewed Arafat as the key to peace, and invited him to the White House 13 times – more than any other foreign visitor. The airport was destroyed by Israel in 2001 as part of the reaction to the intifada that Arafat launched after he refused Israel’s offer and rebuffed Clinton’s efforts at Camp David.
One of the most dangerous, and most absurd, Hamas demands right now is that this airport be reopened. I well recall the Palestinian Authority’s requests to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2005 that this airport be put back in service. Forget it, she told the Palestinian leadership: countries such as the United States, Switzerland, and the UK have great problems maintaining airport security. No one is going to trust you to maintain security at an international airport.
Now that was a conversation with the PA leadership, who were pledged to stop and to fight terrorism. Today the demand for an airfield comes from an international terrorist group, Hamas. If this ludicrous demand were met, Hamas would have the honor of being the first terrorist group with its own airport. Not only Israel but every country should reject this demand out of hand. It should not be on the table for serious discussion.
But let’s give credit where it is due. If there were going to be an airport in Gaza, under the control of terrorists, what better name could there possibly be than Yasser Arafat International?