Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is making Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's day... over and over and over.

We all agree that Sharon has the same right to go after terrorists that President Bush has. We did it in Afghanistan, and Sharon can darn well do it on the West Bank.

But has anybody noticed that no matter who is killing Palestinians — whether it is Arafat himself by ordering his Al Aqsa bridgades to load up another teenager for a high explosive ride to martyrdom, or whether it is Sharon crunching through terror-infrastructure-killing gunmen — all it ever does is make Arafat more beloved by his people, more lionized by fellow Arabs, more admired by the legions of anti-American diplomats at the U.N.?

When I said Sharon should throttle back last week, it wasn't because I think he has no right to go kill terrorists, nor was it because I think Arafat is not a terrorist. (I think he is and has been for 30 years, and continues to be to this very day. I think he gives the orders to light the fuse on the Palestinian teenage bombers. God knows those kids can't get the explosives by themselves.)

My quarrel with Sharon is not whether it should be done, but simply about the tactics that have caused such an uproar, and are doing so much for Arafat and Saddam Hussein.

Arafat gets to hold up President Bush's Iraq plans. Arafat gets to tell Secretary of State Colin Powell no deal. Saddam gets to keep the pot boiling for a while longer. Arafat gets to appear bedraggled and beseiged when only a few months ago, the world — especially the Arab world — was ignoring him as that weird old man who couldn't manage to get anything done.

Through all this, Saddam gets time to work on his Arab nuke bomb.

If they kill Arafat, he's a martyr. If they ship him out, he's a martyr. If they deal with him, he can say no and continue to do Saddam's dirty work... which is buy time and hold Bush off.

Can't anybody out there figure out how to make Arafat irrelevant again? We have to turn our attention back to Saddam, and quick.

That's My Word.

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