Let´s make believe (ISRAEL INSIDER COMMENTARY) By Jonathan S. Tobin Originally published in The Jewish Exponent 12/02/03)
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Throughout the period of post-Oslo euphoria, the consistent theme
sounded by Israel´s left and their cheering section abroad was
that "you make peace with your enemies, not your friends."
There was a certain logic to that; obviously, violent conflicts are
not conducted by allies. The correct rejoinder was to state that one
made peace with former enemies, not those still engaged in the
business of war. But that point rarely made the same impact as the
The intervening decade of Palestinian terrorism and broken promises
took most of the air out of the peace-camp balloon. But the human
capacity for holding on to hope, as well as for self-deception,
should never be underestimated.
After three years of a bloody intifada, many on the left are back to
their old tricks - we´re hearing more and more about how Israel must
make more concessions to achieve that elusive final peace with the
A so-called "Geneva Initiative" was recently reached by a few failed
Israeli politicians with some of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat´s
underlings. This ploy, paid for and promoted by the Swiss and other
Europeans who are hostile to Israel, added on to the concessions
offered by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000. Even
Barak has been quoted as saying that the thing is insane.
Another initiative is a petition promoted by Ami Ayalon, a former
Israeli intelligence chief.
Both these efforts have gained the applause of the world and been
relentlessly promoted by the Western news media.
Death, taxes and Arafat
The problem is, they are doomed to fail, just as the Oslo accords and
all those plans put forward before and since were similarly doomed.
If there is anything in this life that is certain, other than death
and taxes, it´s that Arafat and the empire of terror, corruption and
hate he created will thwart all efforts for peace. All the goodwill
in the world will not change this.
Despite the hot air expended promoting the various plans, most people
in the United States don´t seem to understand the Palestinian leader
That makes the new biography of Arafat by think-tank scholar Barry
Rubin and his wife, journalist Judith Colp Rubin, Yasir Arafat: A
Political Biography, essential reading for anyone hoping to
comprehend the situation.
The couple, who has been studying their subject for decades, assert
that the rejection of Barak´s peace offer at Camp David in July 2000
is the key to their thesis about Arafat. Had his primary goal been to
establish a Palestinian state and improve the situation of his
people, then he would have said yes to that offer, or to the even
better deal offered several months later at Taba, Egypt. But his
refusal left them with no alternative but to conclude that he was
primarily a "romantic revolutionary."
His career has been, they assert, a remarkable paradox. He has been
the unchallenged leader of the Palestinians for decades; he also
created the paradigm for modern terrorism, and managed the incredible
feat of simultaneously carrying out mass murder while garnering
sympathy from the Western press.
But his brethren have gotten little from this. The authors write that
the "ultimate irony" of Arafat´s life is that "the man who did more
than anyone else to champion and advance the Palestinian cause also
inflicted years of unnecessary suffering on his people, delaying any
beneficial redress of their grievances or solutions to their
The book shows that Arafat has repeated the same pattern in every
chapter of his life. His goal is to give the other side the
impression that just one more concession is all that´s needed to
achieve peace. After he receives that concession, he asks for more.
He is a great negotiator, able to wear down his opponents. But the
man doesn´t know how to say yes, and has let every chance for a deal
go by the wayside.
Part of this is his well-established habit of using front groups -
which he pretends are radical dissident factions - to do the dirty
work for him. That makes Arafat look "moderate," and literally allows
him to get away with murder.
The most famous example of this was the so-called "Black September"
terrorist group that carried out the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre.
That pattern was repeated in the last three years with the
establishment of the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade to carry out terrorism
against Israelis. Reputable news organizations still carry Arafat´s
condemnations of their atrocities without noting that he is the
paymaster and ultimate commander of the group.
Despite the siege imposed on him by Israel, he has maintained his
mafia-like control over virtually every aspect of Palestinian life.
Those who imagine that an alternative leadership might emerge while
he´s alive are kidding themselves.
An immovable obstacle
And that´s where the latest talk about peace runs straight into a
brick wall. As the couple´s scholarship illustrates, Arafat is
obsessed not with founding a nation, but by the fear that history
will portray him as the man who "sold Palestine to the Jews." By
that, he means legitimizing the Jewish presence in any part of the
country, including Israel in its pre-1967 borders.
He is, therefore, the primary and immovable obstacle to any chance of
peace. That means that the Bush administration policy seeking to
eliminate him from the peace process is quite right. But given the
fact that all proposed alternatives to him are mere feints, the
administration´s push for Israeli concessions to encourage such
alternatives are as wrong-headed as their conclusions about Arafat
Someday, Arafat will die, and that may change things. It is possible
that his successors will be better. But given the dynamic of hate for
Israel and Jews that has governed Palestinian life - especially
education - under Arafat, there is little reason for optimism.
Arafat´s legacy of rejectionism may well doom peace efforts for the
foreseeable future and beyond.
That is not a comforting thought, and I don´t doubt that many will
continue chipping away at Israel´s bargaining position to reach an
objective that simply cannot be achieved. Such persons will accuse
the realists of dooming the Jewish people to endless conflict. But
the truth is, that choice has already been made by the other side. (©
2001-2003 Koret Communications Ltd. 12/02/03)
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