Even if he lives, the idea of him must die.
Reflecting the views of Israel's Cabinet, Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said publicly over the weekend that "killing" Yasser Arafat was "one of the options." Secretary of State Colin Powell of course had to say that exiling or executing Arafat would incite Arab rage, that it would be most unhelpful to the peace process, etc., etc.
The truth is that Yasser Arafat's moment in history has ended. The world would do well to think hard about how it came to pass, after so many years and so much talk and blood, that the era of Arafat arrived at this endpoint--with Israel saying that it may be worth the trouble simply to kill him. How far we've come from the Rose Garden in 1993.
It is a fine irony that Mr. Powell spoke of the need to soldier on with Yasser Arafat while the Secretary himself was standing in Baghdad for the first time. Mr. Powell is in Baghdad because President Bush concluded after September 11, and after the political failure of the first Gulf War, that the years of Western self-delusion about the nature of global terror must be brought to an end. Similarly, the delusions about Arafat also must now end.
"Arafat" should enter history not merely as the name of one autocratic man, but as the name we assign to an entire Western phenomenon of false thinking. "Arafat," we now see, has come to represent the act of self-delusion on a massive, international scale. "Arafat" is about refusing to believe that an adversary is simply irredeemable. Most importantly at this particular moment, "Arafat" is about allowing barbarism, or its techniques, to challenge the political tenets of civilized life.
For years the Western nations that emerged from World War II and the Cold War have been playing with fire by pretending that their world and the alternative world of "Arafat" could somehow coexist. More than anything, this impossible notion reflected political and moral fatigue. Thus in the 1990s, the world came very close to letting "Arafat," this time in the person of Slobodan Milosevic, achieve its logical end on European soil, again. But the United States intervened and Milosevic is on trial for crimes against civilized humanity. George W. Bush's decision to go to war against the regime of Saddam Hussein was the opposite of "Arafat" thinking; it was a decision to refute "Arafat."
If you look at the Nobel Prizes' own biography of Yasser Arafat, you find this remarkable sentence toward the end: "Like other Arab regimes in the area, however, Arafat's governing style tended to be more dictatorial than democratic." That is to say, Arafat by his own choice of governance--dictatorship over democracy--bears individual responsibility for the legacy he leaves.
That legacy includes: the contemporary crime of hijacking and blowing up civilian-filled airliners; the attempted destabilization of Jordan and Israel and the successful destruction of Lebanon as a formerly sovereign nation; and decades of violated international agreements, culminating in the collapse of Oslo. Last year, in a perfect storm of bad faith, Arafat was caught paying for the shipment of arms from Iran to the Palestinian territories aboard the Karine A.
Across these years, the West, mainly the European nations, accomplished the post-World War II feat of pretending that crime is not crime, so long as the motives and politics for the crimes are moralized. The U.S. and Israel participated as well in the pretense, bringing Arafat out of exile in Tunis. The world has learned since that this apologetics (and much direct funding) has made possible any crime, culminating in the anti-moral act known as suicide bombers. Arafat most recently threw over Mahmoud Abbas, and the fatigued West barely sighed in complaint.
This past September 3, in an article published in the Palestinian daily newspaper Al-Ayyam, the Palestinian writer Tawfiq Abu Bakr wrote: "It is difficult to find a greater and more deeply rooted culture of self-deception than that in our Arab and Palestinian arena." But we in the West fomented that culture of self-deception, by perpetuating the conceit that Yasser Arafat--"Arafat"--was the singular vessel of peace for the Palestinians. He manifestly is not.
The Israelis are in the best position to know what to do at this point, though no option--seclusion, exile, trial or killing him--is particularly attractive. But Israel has to live (or die) with Arafat. The U.S. for its part, rather than sustain the Arafat conceit as it is doing now, should say it is no longer going to be associated with Arafat and what he stands for. As for the Palestinians and Arabs, the President of the United States has said many times that he supports a Palestinian state. Now they too have to decide whether the moment has arrived to get past "Arafat."
For those who will scream that this is more "unilateralism," we would say that for some 30 years there were crucial breakpoints, most recently the Oslo concessions and the Abbas opening, where credible pressure on Arafat from important players in the West and Middle East might have avoided arriving at where we are now. It never came. Not once.
Where Yasser Arafat spends the rest of his life is not important. What matters is for the world to recognize that it is time to get rid of "Arafat."
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And the beginning of a new Israeli strategy.by Tom Rose - Weekly Standard September 22 issue
The suicide bombing that killed 22 people including 6 small children in Jerusalem on August 19 ended the so-called "hudna" (cease-fire) between competing Palestinian terror groups and Israel. It also killed any pretense of faith in the "road map." The oversold peace plan collapsed upon and crushed its own creation, the young government of Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas. Controlling only 3 of Yasser Arafat's 12 "security" organizations, Abbas could not hope to meet Israeli and American demands for a crackdown on terrorists after the bus bombing, even had he wanted to.
When Arafat loyalists used Arafat-controlled Palestinian television and radio to publicly threaten Abbas with death if he tried to crack down, Abbas got the message and resigned. In the wake of his departure and the resumption of terror in the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Israelis too seemed to acknowledge that they had reached the end of their road. They were left with no choice but to rid themselves and the region of the menace of Yasser Arafat once and for all.
In contrast to the ceremonial installation of Abbas as the first Palestinian prime minister, Arafat's naming of his crony Ahmed Qurei to succeed Abbas was dismissed in Jerusalem. Israeli defense minister Shaul Mofaz, Sharon's most influential and popular minister, called Qurei a lackey whose sole purpose was to find a way to preempt his boss's expulsion.
Qurei quickly announced the formation of a "security government" whose purpose will be to "confront security threats and enforce the rule of law in Palestinian Authority areas." But unlike previous moves designed to generate enough international pressure to preempt Israeli action, Qurei's story had no takers. Not even the Europeans seemed ready to lend assistance.
The Israeli Security Cabinet's statement of September 11 that it had decided in principle to "remove" Arafat was the final acknowledgment that it was no longer possible to ignore the elephant in the living room. Amid all the variables that have attended this murderous conflict, Arafat is the one outstanding constant. For three years, Israelis tried everything short of facing the Arafat question head on. Nothing worked. The Mitchell Plan, the Tenet Plan, the Seven Quiet Days, the Zinni Missions, Bethlehem First, the Wolf's Lair, and finally the road map: all failures. Now, 800 dead Israelis later--15 last week alone--Israelis have concluded that it is more dangerous to host Arafat than to eliminate him.
As if waking from a national coma, Israelis suddenly realized that one man was protecting the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations from dismantlement, and he was Arafat. The one man preventing the creation of a consolidated security service capable of fighting terror was Arafat. Arafat was working to kill the road map so that its goal of establishing a Palestinian state at peace with Israel could never be realized. Even the most dovish Israelis no longer seem interested in denying the obvious: It isn't Israel that is preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state. It's Arafat, whose goal is not a Palestine next to Israel, but rather Israel itself. A Palestinian state at peace with Israel is a greater threat to Arafat than it is to Israel. Understanding that makes it easy to see why, given the choice between the road map and Hamas, Arafat chose Hamas. They share the same goal: the destruction of Israel.
Ironically, those who thought supporting Arafat was synonymous with supporting a Palestinian state are the very ones who have helped prevent it. Arafat's supporters at the U.N. and in the E.U. did not remove obstacles to peace between Israelis and Palestinians, they reinforced them. By wedding themselves to Arafat, his international allies allowed the Palestinian dictator to loot and plunder his people. Since Israel brought Arafat back to the West Bank in 1994 as part of the Oslo Accords, Palestinian GDP has declined 70 percent. Think of it: two-thirds of the collective national Palestinian wealth destroyed. During that same period, despite the high-tech bust and the terror war waged against it, Israel's GDP doubled.
An option dismissed in August as the fanciful concoction of an unstable fringe became state policy in September. The Israeli mood was best expressed by a middle-aged woman interviewed in a supermarket who said matter-of-factly that Israel was like the alcoholic no longer able to deny his disease. There are but two choices left: either to conquer the disease or to let it conquer you.
The signals from Washington were mixed. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, though he called the potential expulsion of Arafat "not helpful," also noted: "We were making progress without dealing with Arafat. When we were dealing with Arafat, we weren't making progress. That is the objective fact. . . . We had a failed leadership that wasn't leading us anywhere. That's been tried. Been there, done that. Road don't lead nowhere."
With Saddam gone, a U.S. administration increasingly disgusted with Arafat, and Europeans demonstrating growing impatience with the whole affair, the international climate for Arafat's expulsion, while not risk-free, is more amenable than it has been.
Neither the road map's collapse nor Israel's looming "removal" of Arafat prompted Morocco or Jordan to alter or condition its decision to reestablish relations with Israel, broken off at the start of Arafat's terror war. Nor did it prevent Prime Minister Sharon from celebrating the tenth anniversary of an extraordinarily significant relationship that Bombay and Jerusalem were calling the "Indo-Israeli Alliance" during his high-profile state visit to India. The growth increment alone in this year's trade between Israel and India will be greater than the entire GDP of the Palestinian Authority.
But Arafat has not yet been completely abandoned. He still has the Saudis. Last week Israeli intelligence revealed that Saudi Arabia has forward-deployed its two most sophisticated battle-ready squadrons of F-15s to the secret Tabuq airfield in the northwest corner of the kingdom, just 90 miles from Israel. Israel warned Saudi Arabia it was fully prepared to defend itself against any aggressor. Compounding the news of the forward deployments, U.S. investigators claim to have confirmed Israeli intelligence about an advanced al Qaeda plot to use those very bases to stage 9/11-style terror attacks against up to five Tel Aviv skyscrapers.
Arguments that exile would only give Arafat a bigger stage were drowned out by reminders that Arafat's last exile, between 1982 and 1993, saw the emergence of an alternative Palestinian leadership. It wasn't the world stage that made Arafat globally relevant, it was Israel. Opponents used to argue that Arafat only needs a cell phone to stay in control of "his people." Advocates of expulsion say that depriving Arafat of physical centrality deprives him of the ability to lead, which in turn will force the creation of a new Palestinian leadership.
Whether this new leadership will be better or worse than the malignant one that is about to be removed is a question Israelis and Palestinians will soon see answered. One way or another.
Tom Rose is publisher of the Jerusalem Post.
In its official statement about its vague decision to “remove” Yasser Arafat, the Israeli government referred to him as a political problem, an “obstacle” to peace, and did not emphasize the thousand dead Israelis, the thousands of bereaved, maimed and traumatized ones. Jerusalem apparently did not think mentioning the latter aspect would impress anyone much, whereas the notion of Arafat as a diplomatic snag might at least have some exculpatory value for the dark measures Israel was hinting at.
But “the world” jumped to Arafat’s defense anyway. Everyone — the Arabs, the Europeans, the U.S., the Israeli Labor Party — concurred that there is something necessary and desirable about having Arafat sitting and functioning in his compound a few miles north of Jerusalem, and that anything done to disrupt that state of affairs would be both unwise and reprehensible.
It’s nothing new. Someday historians will look back at our era and wonder how this baleful figure was able to pursue a career for four decades as an arch-terrorist, dictator, liar and thief without ever being stopped or punished. The reason, they may discover, is that he meant too many things to too many people, that he fulfilled certain needs in the “civilized” world that made his presence too precious to dispense with.
For Europe, the place where he is most genuinely (as opposed to the Arab world) popular, Arafat’s rise to prominence in the early 1970s relieved the discomfort of a quarter-century in which Europeans felt they had to behave well toward Jews and recognize their right to life. This was, after all, a period in which Britain and France joined Israel in a military campaign against Egypt, and France for a time was Israel’s main ally and military supplier — things that would be unthinkable today. But then, in the early 1970s, came Arafat with his headdress, stubble and gun, proclaiming that if one was a victim of Jews, then it was right to kill them. He quickly became the toast of Europe. Jew-murder was no longer a base act perpetrated by brownshirts, fascists; it was now a noble, revolutionary deed performed by the downtrodden and desperate. One could now fete and honor a Jew-murderer and at the same time feel virtuous, a friend of the oppressed. No wonder most of Western Europe hasn’t gotten over its fondness or, at best, ambivalence toward Arafat to this day, as dignitaries continue to go on pilgrimage to his Ramallah compound and still proclaim him a requirement of peace. No amount of documentary evidence of Arafat’s responsibility for the terror seems to impress such people, and why should it? The whole point in the first place was that Arafat redeemed Jew-killing and made it admirable again.
For the Left in general, Arafat provided a vivid avatar of the revolutionary hero in a time when the species was getting scarce. Joe was gone and the Soviet Union had lost most of its chic; Ho, too, was gone, and it was hard to work up much enthusiasm for his successors in liberated South Vietnam; Mao died and his luster quickly dimmed. But Castro was still there — and Arafat. Here was a self-declared leader of a dark-skinned, Third World people that laid claim to being expelled, oppressed and poverty-stricken all at once — and the victims of a Jewish colonial outpost backed up by the Great Satan himself! Marx must have held wild parties in his grave. And the more Arafat sent his righteous minions to shoot, stab, bomb, and generally butcher the colonialist-capitalist usurpers of his land, the more he became the darling of the international Left, which to this day idolizes him and sends human shields to defend his forces against the ‘evil depredations’ of the Israeli army.
For U.S. administrations, Arafat gradually became an ideal means of propitiating the Arab world by demonstrating evenhandedness and concern for the “plight of the Palestinians.” It was George Shultz, known as a principled conservative, who formally gave U.S. recognition to Arafat and his PLO in December 1988 as one of his last acts as secretary of state. Although the PLO briefly fell from grace again after an abortive attempt at slaughtering Israelis on a Tel Aviv beach in May 1990, by the time of the Clinton administration, Arafat was back in full glory, the most frequently honored guest of the White House. Large numbers of Israelis and, for that matter, Palestinians had to die, Palestinian society had to be thrown into dire poverty, billions of dollars in aid had to be embezzled, and a whole slew of diplomatic initiatives had to be scuttled before President George W. Bush finally distanced the U.S. from Arafat — but not from the PLO — in 2002.
But the group that was salvaged by Arafat probably more than any other was the Israeli Labor Party. After 1977, when conservative prime ministers began winning Israeli elections, Labor faced a dilemma like those that beset the left wing in all democratic countries: how does one relate to a society in which one’s status as the enlightened elite is no longer automatically recognized, in which leaders who openly voice nationalistic and even religious themes get elected instead, in which people whom one regards as the essence of vulgarity now run the country and are admired by masses of people like them? One well-known solution is to turn the perceptions of those unwashed masses and their leaders on their heads, to step further ahead of the pack, distinguish oneself more clearly, and proclaim that the country’s enemies are actually friends and it is the country’s own loathsome leaders who are the cause of war and suffering. For Labor, Arafat and the PLO were waiting and beckoning, the ideal egress from the dilemma. Today, in Israel, you can’t go to the grocery store or the shopping mall without literally fearing for your life — or, for that matter, send your kids to the grocery store or the shopping mall without fearing for their lives — and the one person basically responsible for it is Yasser Arafat. Yet, when an Israeli government makes vague noises about finally doing something to end, or reduce, the Arafat menace, Labor lines up behind him to a man.
As I write this in Jerusalem, the terror-master Yasser Arafat still sits a few miles north of me in his compound, still waging his terror war, his life and freedom of action still considered sacred by world opinion. I think ahead to next year’s Holocaust Day in April. What will Arafat’s fate be by then — still the Ramallah terror master? Wining and dining in Paris and Berlin? Standing trial in Jerusalem? Dead? In a sense, it won’t matter; morally speaking, it will be too late.
P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Jerusalem whose work has appeared in many political and literary periodicals.
This coming Sunday, Israel's Who's Who will be joined by the rich and famous from around the world at the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv to celebrate Shimon Peres's 80th birthday. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is scheduled to attend the festival, as is former US president Bill Clinton. Mikhail Gorbachev and Nelson Mandela are also set to be there.
More than providing the public with yet another display of Peres's narcissism, the gala event will show the yawning gap between the world we occupy and the world occupied by Peres and his friends and supporters. In the world we live in, every promise of peace and a New Middle East has not only been broken, but has blown up in our faces. In the world we live in, the notion that it is either possible or desirable to negotiate a peace deal with the PLO has been rent asunder.
But in the Land of Peres, it is reality, not Peres, that is wrong. It is reality that is doomed to be remembered in history as a failure. It is reality that is to be condemned as not merely inconvenient but as impossible to countenance.
And so it is that 10 years after that first handshake on the lawn of the White House Rose Garden, Peres defends Yasser Arafat and condemns Israel. In a recent television interview with Fareed Zakaria on MSNBC, the erstwhile foreign minister held up Arafat as a paragon for combating Hamas in 1996, after 60 Israelis were blown to bits in eight days of carnage.
When Zakaria asked him why Arafat stopped combating Hamas, Peres replied that it was the fault of his successor, Binyamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu, according to Peres, was to blame for Arafat not combating Hamas because Netanyahu was not forthcoming enough in negotiations with Peres's Nobel co-laureate.
Never mind that Peres's entire claim that Arafat fought Hamas is a lie. Arafat, ahead of the 1996 general elections in Israel, rounded up, as he was wont to do, several hundred "usual suspects." Less than a week later, and before the elections had taken place, he had already released more than a hundred of them. At the same time, Muhammad Dahlan, then head of his Preventive Security Service in the Gaza Strip, was actively hiding Hamas terror chief Muhammad Deif, who had orchestrated the attacks. And Peres knew this.
The upshot of all that Peres has told us for the past decade is that he cannot be held responsible for the consequences of his strategies. He must only be congratulated for the hope he bestowed on us all.
And herein lays the entire problem not just with Peres but with all his honored guests and supporters. While some continue to blame Israel for the Palestinian war being fought against the state, others claim to be more "pragmatic." These people are willing to allow that Arafat is not a partner in peace, but still protest that Israel must move ahead with the non-existent peace process, "along the lines of the Camp David proposals."
And so it is that former US Middle East mediator Dennis Ross came to write an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal this week protesting the government's decision to "remove" Arafat. Ross, who was the only Oslo pusher to acknowledge that Arafat would never cut a peace deal with Israel, explained that if Israel were to expel Arafat from its heartland, it would have to be in the context of large Israeli concessions to the Palestinians.
Like Peres, Ross refuses to acknowledge reality. If Israel were to make concessions of any kind to the Palestinians as part of its move to expel, arrest, or kill Arafat, these concessions would only go to the unrepentant murderers who'd take his place. Surely Ross knows this. Surely Peres does, too. So the question must be asked. What is it that propels these urbane and cultivated men to such conclusions?
The answer was given three weeks ago by no less of an authority than Ian Buruma, in no less a venue than The New York Times. There, in an article titled "How to talk about Israel," Buruma explained, "The Palestinian cause has become the universal litmus test of liberal credentials." And so it is. In the wreckage of Oslo it is important to note who its greatest beneficiaries were. The Israelis? Our lives have become a crapshoot. The Palestinians? Their standard of living was decimated by Arafat's kleptocracy, while their children were brainwashed by its jihadist media.
No. The real beneficiaries of the Oslo process were people on the political Left like Peres and Ross and Annan and Clinton and their peace-activist friends. At Oslo, where Yasser Arafat and his PLO were crowned in glory and legitimacy, these men finally found a way to be pro-PLO and "pro-Israel."
As long as Israel had a government that favored Arafat and Oslo, they could ignore the fact that Arafat's regime was among the greatest human-rights abusers in the world. They could, as the UN did this week, condemn every move that Israel takes to defend itself against aggression, never condemn the massacre of Israeli civilians, and still say they were friends of Israel because they believed in peace. They could equate Zionism with racism, as Mandela has, and pretend that they actually cared about the human rights of Jews because they support Oslo. They could keep their place on the liberal A-list without ever having to come to terms with the fact that what they claimed to be supporting and what they actually were advocating were mutually exclusive.
But now that is over. Oslo is dead. The overwhelming majority of Israelis want Arafat to disappear and do not believe that peace can be achieved in the foreseeable future. The PA stands revealed as the terrorist regime it has been since its inception.
Sides must be chosen. Some leftists, like Meron Benvenisti and Uri Avnery, have already done so. Benvenisti advocates the destruction of the Jewish state, and Avnery acts as a human shield for Arafat.
In America, historian of Zionism Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, like philanthropists Edgar Bronfman and Marvin Lender, has also chosen sides by appealing to President George W. Bush to put sanctions on Israel and to view Israel and the PA as equivalents. Thus do they remain acceptable to their liberal friends, rather than true to genuinely liberal values.
Then again, at least they've "shown their cards" as Bush might say. Not so men like Peres and Ross, who continue to view reality as just another option, and choose self-delusion over the plain meaning of facts.
No doubt many on the Left are emotionally, politically, and financially invested in the false assumptions of Oslo. And yet the time has come to cut their losses. If the values they espouse are more important to them than the company they keep, they will side with reality. If, on the other hand, hanging with the A-list is what really motivates them, at least they'll have a great party to go to. When it's Happy Hour in the Land of Delusion, the drinks are free.
'MARTYR' MADNESSBy ARNOLD AHLERT - New York Post - September 19, 2003
"Is there anyone in Palestine who does not dream of martyrdom?"
- Yasser Arafat, in an interview at his partly demolished Ramallah, compound, Sept. 17
DOES this statement reflect the mindset of a "leader" leading his people toward peace?
Does it offer food for second thought among the moral relativist intellectuals of Europe and America? Is the Nobel Committee who awarded Yasser Arafat its Peace Prize the slightest bit embarrassed?
Will Palestinian parents recoil in disgust at the thought of raising their children to be suicidal cannon fodder? Will they ever turn away from a man who continues to embrace ideas that guarantee Palestinians a future filled with poverty, hopelessness and despair?
Martyrdom is not a dream. It is the ultimate expression of impotence. It is a badge of honor among cowards who kill indiscriminately and without remorse. It is the bastardization of a noble religion with craven politics and a lust for power at any cost.
While Yasser Arafat leads his people over the cliff, his wife and daughter are living safely in France. Evidently "dreams of martyrdom" are not for everyone.
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