09/07/03 -Rochester NY— Given some work I’m doing at home this weekend, I’ve not had enough time to write a proper BIT. However, in going though some of my older files, I have found one of my older BITs that makes sense to go over again, in light of some of the events recently on the West Bank

I am concerned about the timing of the resignation of the Palestinian PM this past week. I am convinced that the Palestinians are connected with the 9/11 attacks, in an indirect fashion, and given the anniversary of those attacks, I wonder about what wheels are being set into motion, here. With Arafat apparently back in control, we have many questions that I asked back in December 2001, unanswered.


12-09-01 23:14Hrs–Rochester, NY—

Poor Yassir Arafat. I gather we’re all supposed to feel sorry for him these days. The years of playing one force against the other for his own aggrandizement have taken their toll. He’s just not able to fool anyone, any longer, and it’s down to put up or shut up time.

I said, just after the attack of 9/11, that “Arafat’s comments, following the attack, (Shock and dismay in carefully measured amounts) as compared to the reactions of his people, (dancing in the streets at our losses) show him to be a liar of the first order, or that the
Palestinian people are not under his control, or both. As a result, Arafat commitments were useless to (the West), and yet useful to the Arabs who wish and work for the destruction of America, her citizens and her friends.” Such as, of course, Israel.

Mr Bush knows this, as do his advisors, many of whom have held from the beginning, as I have, that Arafat is a sham. And yet, they know that the best chance for a peace process on paper at least, is to have Arafat as part of the mix.

But of course then comes two hard questions.

Is Arafat to be trusted?

And, even assuming he is to be trusted, will a peace treaty with Arafat’s signature on it mean anything more than paper, given that the Palestinians seem to be out from under his control?

A look at the support for Hamas, this last weekend, is an example. The ‘police actions’ Arafat’s PA took were a dismal failure from every angle you look.

The reason for Arafat still being regarded as the only person who can be negotiated with is simple; even assuming he could be removed who is to replace him in the role of head of the PA? The answer at the moment appears to be under Palestinian law, the speaker of the Palestinian legislature, Ahmed Queria, also known as “Abu Ala,” who would be
acting president for 90 days pending new elections.

“Do not be deluded by the word `elections,’ ” said an Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, in a recent Knight Ridder article, which was run in the Miami Herald recently. “These are selections, not elections. The voting will crown the victor who has been decided by the leaders in advance.” Queria “is a contender that others do not want,” said this official, who regards him as having little chance of retaining the presidency after the interim period. I have seen information, suggesting Ala is a Hamas supporter.

So far, I’ve seen nothing that will contradict this information. So, in all likelyhood, he will not be supported by the west, as well as not being supported by his own.

To my mind, this not having a popular successor, raises the issue of the legitimacy of the position Arafat now holds. In every other position of political leadership around the world, including ones which are of rather dubios value, such as the politlca role of one Jesse Jackson, have someone waiting in the wings, to take over the role should the need arise. Even if, as in Jackson’s case, it’s one of his children.

The comparison seems to me quite apt. Arafat seems to me a very Jesse Jackson – like figure. Like Jackson, Arafat holds no real power, and like Jackson, Arafat is not even recognized by most of his own people as being in a leadership role. Nobody, including his own people, wants him around, but the people whose race and culture he claims to
represent would be offended if he wasn’t given the treatment due someone of leadership status by the remainder of the world. So, Arafat gets invited to the party, and negotiates for meaningless peace treaties.

Frankly, my perception of his position comes down to this; That the only people in position to take the reins from Arafat are Hamas, makes one wonder if about Arafat’s loyalties to the concept of peace.

But all of this has now come to a head in the last week. Israel, taking their long overdue queue from the United States, has now also declared War on terrorism. And with that have come the attacks of Israel against Hamas, and their supporters, including Arafat’s
compound. Israel sees itself as having the support of the world in this, and for the first time in many years, they’re right, for the most part.

Arafat responded to Israel’s get tough actions by issuing scores of arrest warrants. Problem is, the PA jails have a revolving door on them. Arafat makes a show out of arresting people and then turns them loose as soon as the dust settles. In hearing the reports these days of the arrests by the PA police, one nearly envisions Claude Rains in
the guise of Captain Louis Renault in Casablanca, giving the order to ‘Round Up the usual suspects’.

Arafat certainly is playing this so that he doesn’t erode his own power base. He has long played things so as to expand his power. This tendency has been noted previously, and current events with him have changed little, his policies and actions.

But with the hard choices he now has to make, he may not be able to maintain his power, and peace, both. Peace may have to come at the price of his power. Indeed, it will be easier without him in his current position. But, no matter what he does, the danger for him is that Palestinians will look at him as having gone too far while Israel will say that he has not gone nearly far enough. Arafat certainly no stranger to playing both ends against the middle, but the stakes, with 9/11, have been raised on an order of scale. Ironicly, this is,
perhaps, an unintended effect of the attack.

After an attack by Israel against Hamas positions, Arafat, clearly annoyed at having the facade of peacemaker stripped away to reveal the Hamas leader underneath, spoke irritatedly to Israel’s Channel One, about recent American pressure on him to arrest militants,:

“Dear God, who cares about the Americans,” Arafat said, striking the
air with his hand at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah. “The Americans are on your side and they give you everything, ` `Who gave you the airplanes? The Americans. Who gave you the tanks? The Americans.”

Well, Yassir, you seemed to care enough during the Clinton years, when you all but had your own room at the White House. As to caring now about America now, you’d better start, Yassir. The people in those tanks know better than the people negotiating those sham peace treaties with you, that they’ll have to use those tanks and planes to come after YOU. And, it’ll be happening soon, barring a change on your part.

After which, peace may at last come to the region.

(Original Copyright 2001, Eric Florack)

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