Arafat's duplicity, terrorism at the heart of
By BARRY RUBIN in Jerusalem
Special to USAfrica The Newspaper, Houston
The Black Business Journal and USAfricaonline.com
In other words, for Arafat the gun is permanent, while the olive branch is a secondary tool which he will use simultaneously only if others pay him off. This philosophy has not changed. By rejecting a compromise agreement two years ago, he reaffirmed that he does not seek peace, but victory. Only when victory seems out of reach - as it did in 1993 when he was in a disastrous situation - would he even begin to think, albeit perhaps temporarily and incompletely, about taking another route. Israel must show him that he cannot win victory, that he faces a choice between compromise and catastrophe. Even then, and not for the first time, he might choose catastrophe (which he can then claim as a heroic victory). We are getting closer to that moment.
Here's the situation: Yasser Arafat is unwilling and incapable of making peace with Israel. He will continue backing terrorism and refusing to order that it stop, either:
until he decides he is losing and gets desperate enough to
and as long as he is still capable of doing so as Palestinian leader.
Nobody knows which is true. Israel's strategy is to try the first option as fully as possible until it either works or proves insufficient. At that point, Israel will have to decide whether to adopt the second option, which could mean chasing Arafat out of the West Bank entirely and destroying the Palestinian Authority infrastructure.
During the last week, we have entered deeper and deeper into giving option "A" a try. We are getting closer and closer to moving toward option "B." Many observers, whatever their political sympathies, don't understand either the consistency of this strategy or its necessity. One common Western reaction is that increasing the pressure on Arafat is bad because it creates a "crisis" and upsets the Palestinians or Arab states.
Yet the alternative is a "normal" and "acceptable" situation in which Arafat, the Palestinian Authority, and the Palestinians in general can wage a terrorist war on Israel at no cost. Arafat should be afraid, very afraid, and in his windowless bunker he certainly sounds shaken.
Is this sufficient to end the fighting? I don't know, but it is the option which must be tried at this point. Those who seek to rescue him or offer him more gains simply don't get it. Making him feel more confident constitutes direct encouragement for him to go on with this war. It is not doing the Palestinians any favor.
Indeed, in the desperate pleas of Palestinian notables for international intervention, even when couched in anti-Israeli terms, there is a strong implication of: Save us from our own leaders!
Will the man who has ordered the murder of hundreds of unarmed civilians throughout his life, and who has taught that this is right, reconsider his strategy when his own life seems to be in jeopardy? It may not work, but it seems more likely to make him reconsider than if he were directing a campaign of terror while being feted by international leaders at gala state dinners.
Even now the Arab world does not lift a finger to help him, a point that never quite sinks in with Western observers, who are convinced that Arab solidarity and anger will lead to some regional or world catastrophe if Arafat isn't given his way.
In general, the Bush administration has learned these lessons, though Secretary of State Colin Powell has only been getting it right because the White House has ordered him to do so.
Consider for a moment one of Arafat's most famous statements, made at the end of his UN speech on November 13, 1974: "I come bearing an olive branch and a freedom-fighter's gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand." Note that Arafat declared something quite different from what a "normal" leader would say: "I come bearing an olive branch and a freedom-fighter's gun. Help me so I can let the gun fall from my hand."
For Arafat, talking about cease-fires goes hand-in-hand with sending more suicide bombers. His audience has taught him to have contempt for them, expecting with good reason that any lie, no matter how transparent, will persuade them that he is a man of peace who has nothing to do with terrorism.
He can give an English-language press release to the Western media calling for a cease-fire while making speeches in Arabic calling for jihad and virtually no one outside of Israel will notice.
He can have members of his personal bodyguard engage in terrorism and still have people persuaded that the perpetrators are marginal extremists who have become frustrated at Israeli intransigence.
He can announce the arrest of terrorists who murdered Israelis, while these same people walk around in the streets and plan new attacks at the same moment that he gets credit for trying to curb the violence.
Why should he behave any better?
The basic problem is that Arafat, his colleagues, and lots of Palestinians believe that the more violence, the more likely Israel is to surrender and the West is to hand him a Palestinian state on his own terms. The West expects Arafat to see events like the Arab summit resolution as opportunities to make peace, while he sees them as signals to press Israel harder with terrorism. And this is the man who - after all he has done, after all that has happened due to him - is supposed to merit coddling and protection?
Let him sit in the dark for a while to contemplate his life,
crimes, and mistakes. He is a survivor who sends others to be killed,
not a would-be martyr himself. Maybe this will make him rethink what
he is doing. If not - and even this will probably be insufficient -
the consequences will be on his head and, though this will not stop
him trying to do so, he will have no one to blame but himself.
Rubin is an analyst for the Jerusalem Post. (April 2, 2002)
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