By Yoel Marcus
June 12, 2001
Over the past three decades, Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat has "celebrated" more cease-fires than birthdays.
When he was in Jordan, he signed - and violated - cease-fire agreements on more than 20 occasions. When he was in Lebanon, he agreed - and violated - more than 30 cease-fire agreements with the militias there and with Israel. Instead of a Nobel Peace Prize, he should have been granted a doctorate in Cease-Fire Agreements and Their Violation. Between cease-fires, he continued to orchestrate acts of violence and murder. In short, a Dr. Cease-Fire and Mr. Terror.
In the course of the present Intifada, Arafat is this week celebrating Cease-Fire No. 5, or, at least, the negotiations over that cease-fire. In his long history of terror-cease-fire-terror, he has not changed his tactics: Either he agrees to a cease-fire at the very moment he senses that the other side's patience has been exhausted or else he agrees to a cease-fire in order to extort something. If he has not obtained what he is after, he simply renews the fire. If he has obtained what he is after, he renews the fire in order to obtain more.
Except for one occasion, when he supported Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein, Arafat has always enjoyed Europe's support. Since they are all former colonial powers, the countries of Europe sympathize with his war against a foreign occupier. The members of the new generation of European leaders have not the faintest concept of world history and are not interested in delving into its hidden mysteries. Nor are they at all curious to know who wanted to slaughter whom in pre-1948 Palestine, who rejected the state granted to them in accordance with a UN General Assembly resolution, and who was willing to agree to a pint-sized country that consisted of territorial bits and pieces and that did not even include Jerusalem.
In the eyes of these new European leaders, Israel is the last colonial power in the modern world. They could not care less that it was the Arab states that invaded the newly declared State of Israel in 1948 and that for decades Israelis were forced to live by the sword and to suffer so much bereavement - until the first signs began to appear of acceptance by the Arabs of Israel's existence. As far as the new leaders of Europe are concerned, all this history is completely irrelevant. For Israelis, on the other hand, that history is in their blood, in their heads, and in their guts.
The finest-sounding cease-fire agreement of all those Arafat has ever signed was included in the Oslo accord. In that cease-fire agreement, Arafat declared that he was abandoning the strategy of the armed struggle and that he was committing himself to the principle that all the disagreements involved in the Palestinian-Israeli dispute would be settled through negotiations. Naturally, nobody thought that the road to a Palestinian state would be an easy one and that there would not be disagreements along the way. However, Arafat still thinks he is a field marshal and he is incapable of getting out of his military uniform (in more ways than one). He keeps on promising a cease-fire but he is incapable of making good on his promises. His eyes fill with tears as he pulls the trigger - again and again.
No one can possibly fathom why, after both U.S. president Bill Clinton, the entire administration of the United States, and prime minister Ehud Barak had thrown their full weight behind an extremely generous proposal for bringing an end to the Palestinian-Israel conflict and when a solution seemed to be within everyone's grasp, Arafat chose to launch a war that blew the peace momentum to smithereens.
If there is one player in the world arena capable of imposing a peace agreement on the Palestinians and the Israelis, that player is Uncle Sam whose intervention was something Arafat was so determined to bring about, and American intervention was already within Arafat's grasp. It takes a special kind of talent to get yourself labeled as a terrorist a second time and to again become a persona non grata in American eyes.
Arafat was so quick to declare a cease-fire in the wake of the terrorist attack on a Tel Aviv nightclub because he wanted to prevent the Sharon government from carrying out precision bombing raids against the Palestinian territories. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon opted for a policy of restraint and decided to adopt the plan proposed by the Mitchell commission. However, ever since Arafat declared a cease-fire, there have been, on the average, 15 terrorist attacks per day. He claims that the cease-fire applies only to Area A, which is under his jurisdiction, and not to Areas B and C, where the settlements are located and which are under Israeli military control. This claim is 100-percent pure bullshit. The reason is that, according to Arafat's screwed-up logic, mass terrorist attacks within Israel are legitimate.
Furthermore, it is an obvious, irrefutable fact that he is the one who is stage-managing all of this terrorist activity - in all its various shapes and forms - and that it is totally under his control. No Israeli government, not even one that is prepared to evacuate every single settlement, could ever agree to the idea that some of its citizens are legitimate targets for Palestinian terrorists.
Sharon is surprising everyone with his highly restrained approach and he may even surprise everyone at the negotiating table. "I am ready to make painful concessions for the sake of a genuine peace, but I will make no concession whatsoever when it comes to terrorism," he emphasizes, adding, "The Tenet plan [formulated by CIA director George Tenet] is a working paper and this country is full of working papers. The cease-fire must be seen in the field and, if Arafat wants something, he is fully capable of making it happen." The cease-fire will pave the road to a resumption of the Palestinian-Israeli talks only if it applies to everybody and only if it is enforced everywhere.
Arafat really thinks he can fool all of the people all of the time. In Jordan and in Lebanon, he proved that he does not know when to apply the brakes and he was forcefully banished in a humiliating manner from both countries. What more needs to happen in order to make him come to the conclusion that he must apply the brakes at the very last moment - that is, before he once more pushes his luck too far and before he once more sees the roof cave in over his head.
©2001 - Ha'aretz