Arafat’s ‘Lose-Lose’ Power Struggle
Vol: 19 Issue: 22 Tuesday, April 22, 2003
There is at the moment a dramatic power struggle ongoing between Yasser Arafat and his appointed Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen. The battle is ostensibly over certain government appointments that Arafat wants to put his key people in. Abu Mazen says he won’t take the job unless he has the freedom to appoint whomever he wants.
But the struggle is over more than that. It is really over whether or not to end the Palestinian terrorist offensive against Israel that has all but destroyed the gains made for Palestinian nationalism over the past ten years.
The struggle, which seems to hinge on Abu Mazen’s determination to give Muhammad Dahlan authority over security matters, highlights the fact that Yasser Arafat is and always has been the principal obstacle to any meaningful peace process, let alone peace agreement.
In a sense, the struggle is a lose-lose one for Arafat: Either he “wins” and sends Abu Mazen packing so that terrorism can continue, guaranteeing his own eviction, or he loses and hands over real authority to Abu Mazen and his cabinet. In either case, the terror campaign will be ended.
After last year’s Passover Massacre at Netanya’s Park Hotel, Israel finally launched Operation Defensive Shield. The IDF began systematically pursuing terrorists throughout all the Palestinian cities. Israel was vilified for launching a military operation that had been widely dismissed as foolish, futile, and counterproductive even among sophisticated local opinion, let alone in the US and Europe.
The campaign to de-legitimize Israel’s self-defense was capped off with the fabrication of Jenin, in which the Palestinians simultaneously claimed to have fought like tigers and to have been massacred like defenseless sheep.
After one week of this military campaign, the blaring calls against Israel became so great that President Bush declared “enough is enough.” But a short time later came the second key event, Bush’s June 24 speech on Palestinian democracy.
Instead of the usual blaming of “both sides” for the “cycle of violence,” Bush promised the Palestinians a state, but laid at their doorstep the challenge of earning it. He had finally come to the conclusion that it was not Israel’s fighting back that was the problem, but a Palestinian leadership that must be changed if peace were to have a chance.
Though Arafat had rejected the state offered him at Camp David, refused to negotiate, and reneged on his pledge to end terror, the idea that the Palestinian leadership could be responsible for the lack of peace used to be treated as sacrilege. Now it is conventional wisdom.
If Arafat does not turn real power over to Abu Mazen, then he says he will not take the job. If Abu Mazen doesn’t take the job, leaving Arafat in place, then the drive for Palestinian statehood will lose what little momentum it now has.
Arafat is reportedly offering a compromise candidate, Ahmed Qurei, but nothing less than a real change in leadership will be acceptable in either Jerusalem or Washington.
The removal of Saddam Hussein changed a lot more than just the artwork in downtown Baghdad. The removal of Saddam’s regime had almost as great an effect on the Palestinian psyche as it did on the Iraqis.
Palestinian suicide bombers have lost considerable incentive to sacrifice themselves.
This is the way the cycle used to work. After a suicide attack, Israeli forces would bulldoze the attacker’s family home. It sounds harsh, but the logic is undeniable. It is about the only recourse left to the Israels to dissuade future attacks. You can’t punish a dead man, but at least some potential terrorists aren’t willing to see their families suffer.
BUT – along would come Saddam Hussein with a fat check for the family, more than enough to rebuild a newer, better, house — plus some left over for a little nest egg, neutralizing the Israeli response.
No more checks for Palestinian terrorists.
al-Qaeda says Saddam’s defeat proves that conventional warfare is no good and this proves it was right about using guerrilla tactics as a way of achieving total victory.
This was precisely the great idea proposed by Yasser Arafat presented after the 1967 Arab defeat. As a result, 35 years later, there is still no Palestinian state.
The power struggle between Abu Mazen and Yasser Arafat is a recognition by many Palestinians that Pan-Arab nationalism, radical Islamism, terrorism, armed struggle, dictatorship and various other efforts have failed, so perhaps the time has come to try democracy and moderation instead.
Does this mean that the future is bright for the Middle East? It could, but the Bible appears to indicate otherwise. Scripture speaks of a false peace as a linchpin for unfolding prophecy for the last days.
“For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14, 8:11)
“For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” (1 Thessalonians 5:3)
“And he (antichrist) shall confirm the covenant with many for one week (7 years): and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease . . . (Daniel 9:27)
There are momentous changes afoot in the Middle East, changes that are accelerating with the fall of Saddam Hussein, moving us ever closer to that glorious day when “. . .the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (1Thessalonians 4:16-18).