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One Year of Yasser Arafatīs Intifada: How It Started and How It Might End (JCPA-JERUSALEM CENTER PUBLIC AFFAIRS) 10/01/01)Source: http://www.jcpa.org/art/brief1-4.htm JCPA-Jerusalem Center Public Affairs JCPA-Jerusalem Center Public Affairs Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
"Whoever thinks the Intifada broke out because of the despised Sharonīs visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque is wrong....This Intifada was planned in advance, ever since President Arafatīs return from the Camp David Negotiations," admitted Palestinian Communications Minister īImad Al-Faluji six months ago (Al-Safir, March 3, 2001, trans. MEMRI). Even earlier, Al-Faluji had explained that the Intifada was initiated as the result of a strategic decision made by the Palestinians (Al-Ayyam, December 6, 2000). By forgetting that the present Intifada violence resulted from a strategic decision taken by Yasser Arafat, most diplomatic initiatives over the last year have been misdirected, focusing evenhandedly on both Israel and the PLO. As a result, these efforts have largely failed.

These previously-noted statements are matched by additional overwhelming evidence that the Intifada was planned in advance and was not a spontaneous popular response to the Sharon visit:

Since the Intifada was deliberately initiated by Yasser Arafat, the question remains: what exactly did he hope to achieve through this pre-mediated escalation of violence against Israel? It should be remembered that when the Camp David Summit broke down in July 2000, Arafat was blamed for the failure. Thus, his advisor, Hani al-Hasan, admitted on October 12, 2000 (Al-Ayyam, MEMRI): "The present Intifada permitted the Palestinians to change the rules of the game, damaging Barakīs attempts to place responsibility for the deadlock in the peace process (on the Palestinians)."

Arafatīs advisors hoped that by combining violence with negotiations, the Palestinian Authority could force Israel to make further tangible concessions. Moreover, they expected that excessive Israeli firepower would bring about the kind of international intervention that would externally impose new political arrangements on Israel that would be to the Palestiniansī advantage.

Ending the Intifada: Demonstrating that Arafatīs Strategy Failed and is Self-Defeating

Arafatīs continuing pursuit of the Intifada option, including the use of his own security forces in attacks against Israeli civilians, is based on his assessment that he is succeeding in converting the violence into tangible gains. For this reason, Arafat has refrained from taking action to prevent Hamas and Islamic Jihad suicide attacks launched from areas under his control. Clearly comparing the U.S. Camp David proposals of July 2000 to the December 2000 Clinton parameters and then to the final Taba negotiations of January 2001, Israel demonstrated its willingness to make further concessions at the negotiating table, despite the Intifada attacks. While this was not Israelīs intention, Arafat could have concluded that the pressure of the Intifada violence succeeded in altering Israelīs negotiating position.

This process ended once the Sharon government resolved not to engage in substantive peace negotiations while Israelis continued to be under fire. Nonetheless, a variety of international actors may have given Arafat the impression that his adoption of violence was working. For example, the Mitchell Committee recommended a settlement freeze, a unilateral Israeli concession that did not previously exist in the Oslo Agreements. At least the settlement freeze was not an explicit condition for a Palestinian cease-fire, but only appeared at a later stage of the Mitchell sequence, after a "cooling-off period."

Subsequently, from the G-8 to the U.S. Department of State, a variety of international actors over the last six months have suggested the deployment of international observers or monitors in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in order to verify the implementation of any cease- fire. These international forces would serve Arafatīs intent of internationalizing the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation. The net impact of these various international interventions was to give Arafat the sense that important elements of the international community contemplated providing him with a quid pro quo for stopping his campaign of violence against Israel. If Arafat perceives that violence is regarded as an accepted instrument for achieving political ends, then there is no reason why he should permanently terminate the Intifada. It is not surprising, under such circumstances, that every cease-fire initiative with Yasser Arafat has failed.

The problem Israel faces is not the lack of a political initiative at present that would only reward Arafatīs violence with some new Israeli political concession. A new U.S. Mideast envoy is also not required. What is needed is Arafatīs compliance with cease-fire commitments that he has already made but not fulfilled. This message requires new international political will.

Americaīs new war against terrorism presents an opportunity for bringing an end to the year-long Intifada. If Arafat internalizes that there is now a universal norm in the international community renouncing terrorism as a political instrument, it might be possible to alter his cost/benefit calculus as he engages in the present-day violence. That new norm would have to clearly establish that no political grievance can justify the resort to violence and terrorism. Indeed, political movements that adopt terrorism should find their cause to be losing international support because of its reliance on such means. However, if Arafat understands that the new international consensus applies restrictively to the Bin Laden case alone, but not to the terrorism emanating from areas under his jurisdiction, then, unfortunately, the Intifada will likely be prolonged, with all its escalatory potential.

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